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Hello Sydney

In conversation with John Wardle and Matthew Todd about our Sydney Studio.

What were the key drivers behind establishing a Sydney studio?

John – Sydney is a city well known to us. I’ve had an ongoing fascination with the city that’s grown as we’ve worked on a series of projects over many years. We see ourselves very much as an Australian practice rather than a Melbourne practice. I know we’re going to derive enormous pleasure from getting to know the city more intimately, forging new relationships, building on our existing knowledge and investigating local skills, materials and systems. 


What’s the most exciting aspect of having a permanent presence in the city?

John – We work across every state in Australia, and we’re always aware of the variance, some strongly stated and some more nuanced, as we move from place to place. Sydney shares many cultural values with the rest of Australia and our practice life in Melbourne. It also has its own defining occurrences and patterns, its own cultural imperatives, remarkable topography, social and built fabric. Our work will evolve in response to these imperatives.

Principal Matthew Todd has joined JWA to lead the Sydney studio. He’ll be joined by a strong contingent from the Melbourne team. Matthew, what appealed to you about the role?

Matthew – I’ve been looking at the practice carefully for over a decade and I’ve always been interested in its approach, its architectural resolution, tactility and texture. It’s an approach based around respect for people  the public, the building’s occupants  and that’s reflected in the design and the culture of the practice.

The role was attractive on multiple levels. From the start I had great conversations with John and the wider JWA team and felt an intuitive connection to the work. The natural evolution to establish a second studio - being part of that excitement and opportunity is invigorating and challenging.


What will JWA bring to Sydney, what’s distinctive about the way we do things?

Matthew – JWA’s work readily translates to the Sydney environment. There’s a sensitivity to place and a fascination with the process of making, the capability of materials, a very refined aesthetic and a sense of humanity and spirit about what buildings should do.   

Why choose a Surry Hills address for the studio?

John – We spent a long time searching for the right address, with Matt guiding the way. I learnt a lot about Sydney in the process: the character of different suburbs, linkages and connections to the CBD. Surry Hills has strong similarities to Collingwood, its history of early industry, its connection to the city’s art, design and creative community, its grittiness. It has a park, a public pool, lots of cafes and bars; it felt like a place we’d enjoy exploring, a place we’d quickly feel like locals.

It’s also a great place to explore from, into the Sydney CBD, out to the coast and regional areas. We’re currently working on a project in Bowral and we’re very keen to undertake commissions in regional NSW.

Matthew, you bring to your role 25 years of experience in designing large-scale public and civic projects, but also highly technical laboratory and specialist education work. You’re also a qualified landscape architect. How would you describe your approach to design?

Matthew – Holistic is a word I often use. Being attuned to the way buildings integrate with their surrounds means I’ll often zoom out of and into a design, paying attention to how the different aspects of a project connect and complement each other. Civic projects have always appealed to me because they have the capacity to impact on the lives of lots of different people, but similarly cutting-edge scientific facilities can support ground-breaking research and encourage students to learn in different ways. That’s incredibly exciting too.

In conversation with John Wardle & Matthew Todd

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