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On balance, form and the human endeavour with Richard Archer of Archer Design

Behind every great design is a considered philosophy. For Richard Archer, he believes in creating harmonic environments that inspire creativity.

On balance, form and the human endeavour with Richard Archer of Archer Design

Richard Archer’s fascination with people and their creative potential is the golden thread that has directed his design eye for many years.

From a childhood working with his architect grandfather, Archer developed a keen appreciation for the sheer beauty of all creative endeavours and the way that design influences how we interact with spaces, now and for the future. Along his journey to the Archer Design we know and love today, the designer was committed to developing spaces that display balance, proportionality and refinement in form. 

From his early inspirations through to the multifaceted, personalised approach of Archer Design today, we explore what drives him to create beautiful spaces.

Indesign: What inspires you? 

Richard Archer: I am always in awe of human endeavour. To me, this means the creative acts within and any evidence of the act of creativity. Whether it’s a design of a space, an artwork, a symphony, fashion, a piece of music, the creativity never ceases to impress me. Then when you combine that with the beauty of nature – the landscapes that surround us and their constant movement – that’s when something magical happens and inspiration begins.   

People and their creative endeavours sound like a great source of inspiration. Would you say this reflects the daily inspiration of Archer Design as a whole? 

People can surprise you in so many ways. I like to think Archer Design is all about creating environments that make people live happier and more fulfilling lives – the idea of creating spaces for people to explore those creative pursuits is the only way I can really describe it. 

Despite the darkness that we can see across the world, there are still glimpses of beauty when we come together, stop for a moment and look at a piece of art. That’s when everything seems to reset. And that’s one of the things I love about working with my team who have been with me for many years.

We are so grateful to constantly be inspired every time the phone rings and it’s a new job, or when we see a project come together and it’s a piece of art that was once just a vision and is now a reality. It’s that spirit that drives Archer Design, reflecting the great beauty that creativity can create.

How have your past experiences influence the way you design at present? 

My grandfather, W. Melville Lawry, was an architect. From my childhood, he influenced the way I look at architecture, buildings and design. He encouraged me to look at these pieces in different ways, pay close attention to the balance and proportion of their form, and understand how that can create harmonic environments for people to properly function in every day. 

My grandfather and my family heritage of design was a big influence in the way I approach projects today – I look through a particular design lens thanks to him. 

“People can surprise you in so many ways.” 

How did these early years impact the beginning of your professional career?  

It opened me up to this new world – one that challenged me to quickly develop my skills, while gaining new ones all at once. The way I started to think about the world and how design can support it started to become second nature, because it had been ingrained in me from such an early age. Beyond a natural appreciation for the arts, my grandfather taught me how to draw proper plans and by seven years old, I could draw an accurately scaled floor plan. 

Moving to my early professional career, I was inspired to look through this lens as I walked through the streets of Paris, or London, or Rome, being inspired by how people have created their lives over hundreds of years.

All this inherited passion and expertise that was passed down from one generation to the next led me to pursue a career in architecture and design, eventually leading me to Cox Architecture.

What was your experience like at Cox Architecture?

Working with Philip Cox at Cox Architecture was a deeply inspirational experience. I was working alongside a master craftsman who inspired me to really love what I do. I was in awe of the way he understood what design was; what it meant; and the skill with which he could look at a blank canvas and go straight to the core of what the project was all about.

To utilise the insight and innate skill that I grew up with and build on them alongside him was something I took with me throughout the years.  

The level of rigour and skill at Cox reminded me of when I was a child working with my grandfather, when we used the historical knowledge of architecture and applied it to navigate the ways of the world. Here, I collaborated on breathtaking projects, travelled to many different places and met some amazing people along the way. It just reminded me of what really excites me: being able to understand and celebrate how people live.  

How does one’s history inform the future of a project? 

For me, the history influences the balance and the proportion of form within a space – it encourages us to create balanced spaces for people to flourish in. As architects and designers, it’s imperative that we understand and implement balance through everything: how people live, the way a space functions as well as how it looks. 

With so many moving parts and everything going hand in hand – it must ultimately come down to understanding balance and its impact within the space. 

That’s right. When you understand that balance, everything just clicks. And when that happens, we can create these inspiring spaces for people to live in, making their days feel better, inviting them to feel more at ease and instil a sense of calm in these turbulent times. 

How do you see this idea of balance translated through the projects by Archer Design? 

It’s all about the psyche of the people that live and work in those spaces. We create elegant, timeless and tranquil sanctuaries with the intention to bring a sense of calm and harmony to the space that we create.

To me, the Australian lifestyle is all about balance: work during the day, then finish it off with relaxing by the water or sitting outside in the garden – it’s all about balancing our daily duties with the simple joys in one multifaceted space. 

Has the evolution of the multifaceted residence changed the way you design to support this Australian lifestyle? After the world shut its doors for the past two years, everyone has had to adapt to new interactions and daily routines. 

In short, yes I think it has. It has challenged us to think a bit differently while we navigate this new world. Firstly, homes need to be flexible; not only for the unprecedented global situations we’ve all been through, but because families go through so many different cycles of change in a lifetime.

From the days of having young children through to the day that they move out, the residence needs to have the capacity to evolve with the inhabitants and their milestones in life. 

With this idea of an everchanging residential space, a balanced mix of open and private spaces is crucial. I believe that everyone needs their own space: a zone of solitude amongst the spaces where we gather and reconnect. This need invites designers to create flexible, adaptable and malleable spaces that can change through the generations. 

“I am always in awe of human endeavour: the creative acts within and evidence of the creative act. Whether it’s a design of a space, an artwork, a symphony, fashion, a piece of music or any kind of creativity, it never ceases to amaze me.” 

Are there specific ways in which a home should be designed to support this? 

It’s important to create a home that is dynamic enough to support and adapt the family’s lifestyle at that time, with an idea of what it could be 5-10 years in the future. Every home needs to be built on the idea of open plan living, with pockets of focus and silence interwoven throughout.

Whether this means designated closed-door home offices; a compact desk alongside the living room display unit; or a corner nook of looking out the window to reset; it needs to be seamless with the rest of their day. 

As designers, it’s important that we can give them the opportunity of interconnectedness, with or without the physical barrier of a wall. 

With decades of expertise in the industry, your portfolio spans across so many styles of projects. How would you define your creative philosophy today? 

If I was to look at our body of work, there hasn’t been one definitive style – I think that’s the essence of Archer Design. We haven’t branded ourselves with one look, which has given us a beautiful process of learning, developing and curating unique homes for our clients. Archer Design believes in a very collaborative approach, where we want to bring out the client’s personality and the ways in which they see themselves living a very fulfilled lifestyle. 

It’s our job to read these incredible people carefully in a very short amount of time. That “research” process helps us to decide what design palette they’d like to be immersed in. We’re meticulous about creating connections with the clients – it’s the creative spirit of those conversations that drive our practice. 

How do you go about showcasing the clients personality through a distinct material or colour palette? 

From a materiality point of view, the materials we put in place are generally quite simple, with hints of sophistication and boldness. We’ve been fortunate to work with clients who have extraordinary art collections, which we work around to create colourful and special environments.

The combination of restrained intricate details, timeless materials and remarkable pieces of art can transform a normal space into a kaleidoscopic haven. That’s the magic moment. 

It all comes back to that idea of human’s creative endeavour. A home should be designed to support, but also celebrate the art of daily life. 

It’s fantastic, isn’t it? Any creative aspiration is art to me and it’s an aspect of life that can evolve with you through many, many years. It’s flexible, adaptable, and it’s not static. It’s exhilarating. 

To you, what responsibilities do architects and designers have in shaping & redefining residential environments in the 21st century and beyond? 

Ultimately, we need to constantly develop ways to create spaces that give people joy, safety, protection and support in their lifestyles. We have a responsibility to look beyond the surface and deliver environments that allow us to thrive in every aspect of our being – whether that’s establishing sufficient airflow; a floor plan that creates a connection with the outdoors; durable materials; pops of colour in every corner; or designing sustainable spaces. This is what architecture and design is about. 

I think one of the things this pandemic has taught me is how much we value the feeling of fresh air in our lungs. That moment of taking off the mask and breathing in has become such a distinct moment in our lives in the past two years.

The environments we live in are much more than the four walls that surround us; these spaces are an extension of us as individuals and it needs to feel like a breath of fresh air.

We’ll look back in time to these past two years as an important part of history. It will show how humans just want to feel both free and protected at the same time in their own spaces. It’s our job to create the environment where that can happen successfully and it’s our job to do it very, very well. 

It’s our responsibility to get that part right and create joy. 

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