Once the domain of the ‘starchitect’, architecture has become a much more inclusive and accessible practice, with people like SJB director Adam Haddow leading the way.
May 22nd, 2023
This article originally appeared in Indesign Magazine #88, the ‘Education Outlook’ issue. Find out more here!
For SJB director Adam Haddow, it was never enough to pursue the monumental for monumentality alone. Rather, his interest has foundationally been about improving lives through architecture. Within this model, Haddow shifts with ease between working on private houses, creating a packing shed in the outback and a super sexy mixed-use development in Surry Hills. On each count, he is leading the design to be better suited for all, whether that means more sunlight and better amenities in an office, subtly protesting the mining industry in a movable packing shed, or celebrating the experience of architecture per se.
While still at university, Haddow came across architect Deborah Fisher, then head of architecture at Tangentyere Council in Alice Springs. He was hooked. “She was amazing,” he recalls. “Deborah is one of the people I can remember in the history of my education [who] made my spine tingle.” Fisher talked about the importance of collaborative design processes, about how to include people in the process.
“I’ve always been interested in working on larger, more complex projects, projects that include multiple stakeholders, and ideally multiple architects. There is an energy that comes from the immediacy of collaboration, of how someone else sees the challenge,” says Haddow, who, in building convivial practice relationships has become a leader in the shift toward multi-architect developments.
Here, we might consider the Newcastle East End project for which SJB designed the four-stage masterplan. It was coordinating architect on Stage One, working with Durbach Block Jaggers, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and ASPECT Studios. Quay Quarter Lanes in Sydney is another example of Haddow’s collaborative bent, with Studio Bright, Silvester Fuller, Carter Williamson and ASPECT Studios all working towards a shared but multi-viewed outcome.
For Haddow, density and diversity go hand in hand, in that it is the architect’s role to ensure cities work across a range of user groups and issues. Effectively, multiple viewpoints equate to a greater diversity of outcomes, thereby better serving the community. Moreover, this ideal of making cities work harder, so the bush can remain the bush, is at the heart of Haddow’s resolve.
He is also interested in what makes a city work and fights against the old model of removing everything and building anew. “If you erase the fingerprint of this landscape you are destroying the things that made it amazing in the first place.” Haddow’s collaborative approach effectively brings in enough divergent voices to celebrate the city’s unique identity.
Related: Austin Maynard Architects in profile
A turning point for Haddow was discovering the Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) – an Indigenous-run organisation that pairs community requests with volunteers with specific skills (and who have undertaken the cultural awareness training provided by ICV). As such, Haddow has been able to mirror his career in projects through working with community. “I started to do community volunteer work with the organisation. One was [in] the foothills of the Blue Mountains for the Aboriginal organisation Muru Mittigar, and that [became] a couple of little projects,” says Haddow who increasingly found he was able to assist strategically to help communities bring projects to fruition.
Working in the one company for 30 years has allowed Haddow the opportunity to both implement and track changes. Things like parental leave, equal opportunity and gender equality have all improved on his watch, and SJB has been at the forefront of a lot of these shifts in the mostly male-led world of architecture. Haddow is adamant that the whole industry needs to step up: “I have been talking about finding a better business structure for 28 years, and that is the thing that is necessary. You don’t need to define it to keep talking about it, and if you keep talking about it, you find other ways to have a business. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary,” he says.
Personable, easy and able to shift through subjects with an astounding agility, Haddow has star pony written all over him. That said, it is always about SJB and the collective. “The thing I really love about our office is, it’s not [just] an individual person. Everybody has a role, and everybody gets to do something that they want to do. Anyone can say, ‘You’re really good at that, and I can help you with this other [element] because I’m really good at it.’ We can support each other,” he comments. And then there are the projects. Ranging from a bathroom through to a city, Haddow excels in all he takes on. Granted, he is an excellent architect, but it is the foundational attributes of positive change that make the outcomes so much more than the sum of their parts.
We think you might also like this story on housing density in Sydney with SJB.
A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers
Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!
Specified at Eleven Eastern, a state-of-the-art commercial development in Melbourne, Verosol blinds have helped create a work environment that is both energising and sustainable.
Bidding farewell to mundane and uninspired office spaces, colour has transformed our workplaces into layered and engaging environments. So we sit down with Karina Simpson, Hot Black’s Workplace Lead, to talk about the influence colour has on the workspace landscape through the prism of Herman Miller’s progressive colour philosophy.
Highly responsive and light on its feet, K.I.D was created to address the need for commercially focused suppliers with a commitment to careful, enduring craftsmanship.
Hosted by Indesign Media and presented by a panel of experts and leading brands via a series of interactive online events, CPD Live is jam-packed with free CPD content, exploring leading topics and areas to inform specification.
The Mutual Recognition Agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the UK spells out greater skill mobility, permanent migration pathways and new opportunity for Australian and UK graduates.
The three-year design research partnership launched by McGregor Coxall and RMIT’s Yulendj Weelam Lab embarks on a mission to transform Australia’s built environment by weaving in First Nations wisdom, embracing sustainable practices, and fostering a sense of belonging.
The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed
Paper & Clay brings the work of 29 Australian artists working in the enduring fields of clay and paper, together with the exceptional Maiori ‘Huggy’ collection of furniture by designer Antonie Lesur.
Taking place Wednesday 9 August online, this FREE digital all-day summit is the perfect way to top up your knowledge with cutting-edge regional content and ideas.
In the town of Oatlands, Cumulus has delivered Callington Mill Distillery. It’s a new venue that manages to be visually striking and functionally adept at the same time as engaging sensitively with the important local heritage.
The Commons has been providing co-working spaces since 2016 and, following collaboration with DesignOffice, has two fresh sites in prime Sydney locations. We spoke to The Commons founder, Cliff Ho, and DesignOffice co-director, Damien Mulvihill, about using local touches to balance function and connection.