InterVIEW – Todd Pearce

Todd Pearce Shares Some Thoughts With Us

Todd Pearce has been contributing a monthly ‘Todd’s Apps’ column since July 2013. We thought it was time to get to know him a little better…..

What is/are your favourite project/s that you have worked on, and why?

Without doubt my favourite projects are the tight sites with lots of challenges both in terms of structural but also capturing the most amount of space for the given envelope. The two projects that jump to mind were also for good friends, which made it so much more enjoyable as I knew them personally so I was in a really great space to be able to understand what they liked and what they didn’t. One was a substantial renovation in Middle Park complete with sunken lounge and secret bookcase door into a cellar. We managed to also take out two back-to-back fireplaces without disturbing the chimneys above the ceiling line capturing the floor space but still keeping the heritage guys happy. I was very excited that the clients had the trust in me to go for the rooftop balcony hidden in plain sight within the existing roof area of the double fronted roof structure. Whilst we didn’t quite get it onto the plans, we discussed turning one of the chimneys into a mini pizza oven. Maybe next time…? The other building is a full new build in Northcote; again tight site, heritage, boundary to boundary. It’s a great little design of a house I’d love to live in myself: raised ceilings, void bridges, vaulted spaces and great storage in roof cavities, north facing roof loaded with solar and a swimming pool to boot. Can’t wait for it to be built! The owners took a short break to have a baby – but they’re back on the case and hope to appoint a builder any day now.

To date, my biggest business/design challenge has been?

Anything admin. I would quite honestly work for nothing if I didn’t need the money. As with many people in the design industry, I guess we’d rather be doing the actual work rather than talking about it, doing invoicing, BAS statements and the like. So, just about all the admin tasks I find challenging; more so from a motivation and enjoyment perspective rather than it being particularly difficult.

My favourite finish is?

I really like satin finishes such as Zinc cladding but also have a soft spot for Weathertex particularly the woodsman natural range. I like the texture and feel of both but also the way they weather and their long term durability.

The architectural style of the home I grew up in?

That’s a bit of a tough one for me – for 15 years (9 months a year) I lived in one of the busiest cities in Asia: Hong Kong. Part of the time in a house, the balance in an apartment. Pretty much concrete boxes to be fair – not just the house but mostly everything else too around the place. However, for 3 months a year I lived in Scandinavia. We had a holiday house in a sleepy country beachside town in Denmark. Large backyard with tall conifers and wide open lots. Weatherboard with some masonry; very open plan, with wood panelling, high ceilings and a sauna, of course.

I joined the BDAV because?

Having studied industrial design and having an association with the DIA and then a solid stint in retail store planning and design where I was a professional member of the Institute of Store Planners, I already knew the value of being involved in an industry group to share time with like-minded professionals but also the benefit of keeping up to speed with regulations and industry issues. So, when I went back to school to study building design – I was already working in the residential design and construction business anyway – it was a logical step to seek out a representative body building on professional memberships I’d had before. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ve been a member now – over 10 years as a full member but longer than that as a student prior.

My favourite Australian building is?

Mike Cleaver’s ‘Batman house’: I really enjoy the way it takes risks, wears its structure on the outside and turns a lot of elements inside out. All whilst maintaining such a nice feel of warmth and an interesting mix of both free form feel but finely balanced against the very deliberate nature of its structure and form.

My favourite international building is?

The truth be known I am somewhat of a mid-century tragic – love the vibe, the sense of place and time that these era homes exude. So much energy and promise of new beginnings, technology and blazing a new path. Almost anything Joseph Eichler works for me. I really enjoy the way the building’s structure are exposed but all within a sense of comfort for the occupants and how they live. The fact that they were fundamentally an economical way to build (Eichler was a developer after all) makes it more interesting to me – as I’ve never subscribed to the view that “good design has to cost a lot of money”; which is of course slightly different to “you get what you pay for”.

My words of wisdom for a student building designer are?

Empathy in design is critical – projects that have no budget, no brief and no constraints come along infrequently if at all. As a building designer, your role is to interpret and guide people to achieve their goals, consider their budget, their personal situation and their needs. I see building designers as guides to regulation, options and of course well thought-out aesthetically pleasing outcomes. It’s for the most part not about you or your needs, wants or desires (of course they will be aligned in many instances otherwise you are unlikely to have been awarded the project). Judge yourself by your clients’ feedback about how well the project suits their needs/brief and how much you brought to their project and their enjoyment.

When I was a child I wanted to be?

I had three things that interested me as a child: architecture/design, motor mechanic and chef. I’ve actually managed to fit them all in to my life in one way or another. When I was 17 I bought my first car, a VW beetle, and spent a year restoring it. I enjoyed working on it so much I actually did all my own vehicle maintenance for decades after and as a young enthusiast I actually worked on my mechanic’s customers fixing cars on the weekends for no pay; other than him letting me use his workshop and all the equipment to fix my own car. I managed to take a few years off about 15 years ago when I’d had enough of retail design and wasn’t sure what to do next – during that time I worked in a seaside hotel in Europe where I managed a restaurant – I still really like to cook. And well design / architecture – really, I’ve been doing this for my entire working life in one are or another, whether it was industrial design, interior design, retail store planning and visual merchandising to the last 15+ years in residential design and construction.

Outside of work, I am passionate about?

Other than my family of course I am a keen martial artist. I study and am also an assistant instructor in a traditional Korean Martial Art little known in Australia called Hapkido. I currently hold the rank of 2nd Dan Black Belt and recently competed in Korea and somehow managed to win a gold medal– defeating the last year’s champions in the coveted paired self-defence demonstration. In addition, our Team demonstration walked away with a silver medal. No one was more surprised than me I can assure you. Hapkido is a very technical and traditional martial art and I’m sure I could study it full time for the next 20 years and would still have plenty more to learn.

At the moment I am reading?

I had to laugh at this question – I read a lot but not books these days. Most of my reading leisure time is spent on the iPad reading the news, researching and also using a website called Mix that randomly suggests website, stories and the like based on other things I’ve looked at.

My life in 4 words?

Family, Friends, Work, Renovations.