A lot of architectural drawings come across our desks. Some are a joy – meticulously detailed with innovative use of space and a layout perfectly suited to our client’s lives. Others…not so much. The drawings belonging to Angela Banks fall in the first category which is why she’s one of BCT Group's favourite architects.
We sat down with Angela, a fellow inner westie, to talk about her career, her architectural style and her advice for renovators.
First up, why architecture? Has it always been a passion of yours?
Yes. From a very young age I wanted to become an architect. As a child I would often sit in my bedroom drawing up my dream home. It was well proportioned with symmetrical windows, a gable roof and funnily enough there was always a white picket fence. Coming from the outer eastern suburbs my childhood designs seemed to depict architecture that was more common with the inner city. I loved the idea of small spaces rather than grandiose houses, this is something that still rings true for me today.
Why are you so drawn to residential rather than commercial architecture?
I love the personal scale you have with residential architecture. I love designing spaces with my clients that have a true impact on the way they live in the present and in the future. My work is a passion that I truly love, it's not just a job that I go to everyday.
How would you describe your architecture style/ethos?
A number of factors guide my designs. First and foremost, I have a strong mindset of ‘listen to your client’. As an architect you may have the best intentions and have some great ideas about a space or detail but if your client is not going to use the space as you have designed it, then the detail becomes useless - one must not let ego get in the way! On the flip side, it is also my role to question my clients desires and to draw out what they really want and need.
As most of my work is inner city and predominantly inner west, the size of the blocks are quite small. I see this as an exciting challenge, the smaller the block the better! In my designs everything has a place and this is particularly important for smaller houses.
A house that grows with a family is also very important. Most of my clients are young families. What is required of a house with toddlers is quite different to what is required of it with teenage children. Having two children of my own, I know that supervision of your children when they are young is very important. Being able to see where they are and what they are doing is central in living comfortably with young kids. However once the children grow it becomes the opposite. The children need their own space as do the parents. Being able to design a house that can change over the years is integral to a happy home.
Whilst I never profess to being a sustainable architect, I believe sustainability should be an automatic response with any design. Solar gain and control, prevailing winds (particularly important for the inner west) and appropriate insulation are just three of many factors that are
always part of my designs.
How do you ensure your clients get the home that they need/want? Presuming sometimes those are two different things.
I always start my projects with a detailed client brief, this is so important. I give my clients a questionnaire to fill in and then organise a meeting to go through it together. During this time we discuss in detail what is most important in the design. We nut out what is really needed and wanted. In some cases the wants are included but not to the extent of the original idea.
What are some key things inner westies should be thinking of when renovating their home?
You need to approach the design process with an open mind. Your architect may (and most likely will) come up with ideas that haven’t crossed your mind so be prepared to be unprepared. More specifically to the inner suburbs, be prepared for smaller spaces/houses. We don’t always have the lot sizes like the inner east so whilst we can accommodate specific spaces don’t expect a 6m x 5m master bedroom with double ensuite and large walk-in-robe. Smaller, more efficient spaces are better anyway!
What are some common mistakes people make when they start the renovation process?
Drawing up the design, presenting it to me at our first meeting and saying, "This is what I want". While I always love seeing these and I understand the passion in having something on paper, I will always return it. I have seen some great ones over the years!
How can clients make the design phase as smooth and stress-free as possible?
Don’t take the sketch designs to your neighbour’s aunty’s friend for their opinion. Some of my clients have needed to bounce the design ideas off someone and get feedback. This is understandable but it's a good idea to limit the number of people you get feedback from. Everyone will have their opinion and it makes it difficult to make a decision, especially when your neighbour’s aunty’s friend is warning you not to use a certain carpet because she once had a cousin who had carpet in the upstairs bedrooms but there was a mishap in the bathroom which flooded the whole upstairs and ruined the carpet. Do a bit of digging and it turns out little Johnny forgot to turn the tap off and the mishap had nothing to do with the carpet choice. So, trust your architect!
If you're looking for an awesome architect (with a great sense of humour), be sure to get in touch with Angela at AB Architecture. The money you invest in a great architect like Angela and a great builder like us, will be well worth it.
Check out the recently completed Yarraville project designed by Angela and built by us.