Architect Spotlight – Albert Mo
Albert Mo is the co-founder of Architects EAT; a Melbourne based architecture and interior design practice. The practice has grown tremendously from a three-man operation to to a firm capable of designing and procuring large scale commercial projects across Australia and Asia. The firm does not have a signature style but rather allows its design process to be driven by a consistent philosophical approach.
How would you describe your signature style?
Accessible, authentic, smart and precise. We don’t do signature style, our design process is driven by a consistent philosophical approach – not a predetermined style – by which we create buildings that are intimately connected to their function and individual context. We are known for our sensitive approach, sensory elements and tactile quality in our projects. We pride ourselves in creating uniquely detailed projects, and avoid producing similar designs over time.
Who/What has been the biggest influence on your work?
Prof. Paolo Tombesi (he is now in École polytechnique fédérale de Lausannehas in Switzerland) has changed my world and got me to be serious about architecture.
To me he is a rationalist and a realist, and a very damn good architect who understands and appreciates fine building details, history, construction method, and human interaction with the built environment. He has taught me the analytical skill to dissect design and buildings, and the economy and political framework of construction. Last but not least he also got me obsessed with antique hand tools, especially four fold rule.
Tell us about a project that made you really happy to work on.
Every start of a new project makes me really happy, it is the stage of optimism. No matter how many projects I’ve done before, it still gets me excited, my head just can’t stop thinking!
I also particularly enjoy when a project gets onto construction stage; the smell of fresh sawn timber and the sound of hammering makes me happy. More importantly, to me design doesn’t stop at ‘Design stage’. It is a continuous process throughout the construction on site, it is an interactive process between the architect and the builders, and the translation from papers to physical built form, and from one brain to another’s hands.
Are there any design elements you have included in some of your projects that you wish you had in your own home?
I have not done my own home yet! However what I’m interested in is not particular design elements, but rather the things that we believe in – accessible, authentic, smart and precise. In my own home I will have the same tactile quality that I’ve created for our other projects, the same consideration of light and shadow, and the same appreciation of craftsmanship.
Tell us about your project ‘Moving House’. What is it about this project that makes it special and what are some of its hidden qualities?
Like a lot of our projects, Moving House can’t really be fully appreciated until you are there. It is designed as an experiential journey, about careful orchestration of spaces, manipulation of lights, choreography of materials and tactility.
A lot of talks have been about the vaulted concrete ceiling that we have done, it has been left raw and unpolished, inviting the eyes to explore its variations in pattern and colour; on the floor, it is polished and sealed. The effect of so much concrete is anything but heavy or oppressive – the way it has been shaped is delicate, nonlinear and playful; it all adds up to a structure that appears sculptural and light.
What do you feel is your strongest skill and how have you continued to develop it?
When I design, I close my eyes to feel: I walk through the spaces, I pass my hand on the walls and the handrail, I sense the sunlight on my skin, and I smell the breeze from the windows. Then I add the details and make it functional. You become good at it the more that you practice… I’m also really good at Eureka moment and drawing references from history, my colleagues in the office can tell you more about these.
Name one architectural destination that non-architects should see.
There are so many! But one that really blew me away is Brion Cemetery in San Vito d’Altivole near Treviso, Italy by Carlo Scarpa. I travelled there with a group of close architect friends during the Venice Biennale last year, seeing it in real life comparing to looking at photographs in book is overwhelmingly revealing. The amount of energy, love, and thinking that has gone into designing and building a work like this, where every detail has been thought of, it just sends shivers down your spine. And you think of your own works, then you realise you are only a speck of dust in the history of the world.
Which architect(s) working today do you most admire?
Again there are too many! Peter Zumthor, Peter Stutchbury, Sean Godsell, Chenchow Little, Donovan Hill (1992-2012), Kevin Mark Low…
These practioners are like the Scarpa and Lewerentz of our time, they craft their buildings, they think of architecture beyond the hero shot and immediate consumption and satisfaction, where buildings interact with our everyday life, and how architecture can improve just that. They are honest with materials, they respect gravity, and more importantly they know how to put junctions together. I’m trying to practice like they are…
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would have never imagined we would survive this long in the industry and grow. To have the people around us believing in Eid (my business partner) and myself and supporting us is what I’m most grateful of. We create architecture that we believes in and we treat each project as our own, that’s what the whole studio is most proud of.
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