Tellus On Parker

By Vivien Wong, Echelon

6 November 2020

The notion of home has taken on a new meaning for all of us this year. With the change of lifestyle ahead, we talk to award-winning architect Barry Baltinas from Perth – who has been called a visionary and boundary pusher – about what shaped him in the past and what his vision is for the future.

As an acclaimed architect, can you tell us a bit about your background? What made you decide to be an architect and has design always been a part of your growing up?

I have always been drawn to visual arts and the positive effect that it can have on oneself. I recall from a young age being fascinated by certain car designs, for example, the e-type Jaguar and the old 911 Porsches. The beauty in their design and form stands out even now some 50 years later. This shows that good design will never date as it appeals to the inherent fundamental human senses.

I enjoyed studying art in high school and even won some small awards, and was told by my parents that I had inherited the artistic genes from my grandfather who was an artist in Lithuania. In my final years at high school, I was encouraged to pick up technical drawing which I excelled at and even managed to complete my Technical Drawing Tertiary Entrance Examination one full year earlier than required. This technical drawing training combined with my art background was the basis for me deciding to pursue tertiary education in architecture.

From dropping out in year three of university to working as a scaffolder, taking on private jobs before you graduated and closing down your office to focus on your children for six years – all these incidents indicate that you charted your own path to become who you are today. How have these experiences contributed to you becoming one of the most innovative architects?

Life is full of challenges that we are karmically drawn to for us to learn from, and embracing these challenges and getting through them is what helps us evolve as human beings. Working as a scaffolder was very challenging but also a rewarding experience, as it helped me understand the construction mentality whilst obtaining an appreciation and preference to be the person standing safely on the ground and looking over the plans instead of scaling the heights of the scaffold.

Raising my children was also a wonderful gift and challenge that brought about so many wonderful rewards. Both my children have followed on into the architecture and interior design field and are currently navigating their own way through their early adulthood.

All our life experiences help to shape us and offer us a better understanding of life itself and how architecture can have a direct influence on how we live our lives. Therefore, architecture needs to respond to how we want to live our lives. Life itself contributes to an architect’s design perspective; it is a circular aspect which needs to flow back and forth.

Sustainability has become important in every aspect of our lives. Can you give us some examples of your projects that highlight this trend? How do you see this moving forward?

In 2008, we were one of the first architects to design a carbon-neutral residential project in Western Australia which incorporated comprehensive sustainability principles including individual metered vehicle charging points for future electric cars. Water harvesting, low VOC materials and energy efficient appliances and lighting were integral, including photovoltaic panels to help power the building. In our opinion, this is what all responsible architects should include in their design ethos to ensure that we all do our bit to support the health and vitality of our beautiful planet.

Can you tell us about your inspiration for Tellus on Parker and what are the key elements of this project?

A combination of geometricity and green integration was the inspiration at Tellus on Parker, creating a unique fusion of nature and architectural form.

It features organic façade framed within a geometric pattern language. The retail ground floor canopy space serves to protect and activate the street front and pedestrian zone. Balconies with planting provide a sense of connection to nature within the building façade. The form follows the orientation of the sun to warm the building in the winter and provide shade in the summer. A distinct spine facilitates natural airflow and light through the building corridors, while a rooftop geometric free-flowing roof structure provides the final fold to the origami-like building design aesthetic.

You once said that “architecture must be relevant to today’s society and context”. How has the year 2020 – such a dramatic year in history – impacted you and your family on a personal level, and how will that be reflected in your future projects? What sort of lifestyle will people look for in the future?

Society and context are constantly evolving, and we as architects need to embrace these changes and be open to new perspectives on how we design and the changing functionality of our lifestyles within buildings.

2020 is a year that will create significant changes in how we live. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of people have now learnt to work remotely; we are now not necessarily confined to an office and may choose to work from home instead. This means that our homes may require more flexibility for a workspace which may need additional privacy from young children or integration with the children’s home schooling. Each family will have its own preferred way of utilising spaces at home, which will ultimately mean that in time, a home design brief may need to include this possibility for change in how we live.

Space for social distancing in public buildings and the benefits of natural airflow to avoid closed and recycled air will come into much more serious consideration to future proof buildings. A Covid-19 proof building design code may eventually come into effect, which may provide for buildings to be given a “Covid-19” response rating.

What would be three pieces of advice you can give to young talents who want to achieve what you have achieved today?

First, work hard to chase your dream, never giving up and always smiling. Two, look after the health of your body and mind by eating healthy, exercising, and doing yoga and meditation daily. Three, always remember to bring yourself into the present moment – smell the roses, as they say – and following point two will help this occur.

Last question, what is good design to you?

Good design will elevate your senses; it will satisfy the client’s brief and also respond to the site and context.

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