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Five Key Themes From Our Podcast With John Wardle

We break down the five key themes from our podcast This Much I Know with Karen McCartney with Wardle founder and multi-award-winning architect John Wardle. Recorded in John’s own Kew home, the pair discuss his endless curiosity for the rhythms of living, working and learning and how the architect’s passion for finer details transcends all scales of work.

1. Experimentation and Personal Connection to Place 

In this podcast, architect John Wardle delves into his deeply personal relationship with his Melbourne home and its surrounding landscape. Throughout his career, John used his own projects as experimental grounds to test new ideas and details. His home has undergone multiple renovations, each time incorporating lessons learned and reflecting evolving design principles.

Despite an unassuming appearance, John gravitated towards his Kew home for its connection to nature, transforming the home by preserving and integrating the landscape’s ancient elm trees into the home’s design. These personal experiences have allowed him to refine techniques and ideas that are later applied to other projects, demonstrating a continuous cycle of learning and adaptation in his architectural practice.

2. Design Influences

John reflects on his endless curiosity and respect for character-filled spaces that evoke memories. His design philosophy emphasises the importance of atmosphere and the ability for architecture to reflect personal narratives and tell stories. Wardle draws inspiration from various sources, including the architecture of Louis Kahn, celebrated in his Melbourne home that features a sculptural corner window influenced by Kahn’s Fisher House.

3. Craftsmanship and Material Innovation

Wardle’s work is distinguished by his appreciation for traditional craftsmanship and raw materiality. Collaborating with skilled artisans, John pushes the boundaries of traditional crafts, integrating materials like timber, wicker and ceramics in unconventional ways to enhance the rich tactility of his designs. This is reflected through the board and batten cladding system on his Kew house that emulates the rough texture of elm bark, and his collaboration with Japanese tile makers to create bespoke ceramics tiles.

This interest in materiality “comes out of being a younger practice in those early years and making the most of rudimentary materials,” John reflects. “We have some projects we’ve used fabulously expensive materials, but that idea of invention and setting apart a conventional use of a well-known material has always been a fascination,” he affirms. 

Timber is used extensively in the most recent refurbishment of John’s home, as seen in the corridor to the living room. The art hanging system comprises a dowel affair recessed vertically down timber panels, allowing for easy rearrangement of artworks.

Moroso Bohemian Armchair
Moroso Fjord Ottoman

Timber lines the walls, floors and joinery in John’s study space. The architect has abstracted LouisKahn’s Fisher House window seat– a tribute to one of John’s favourite works since he was a student.

4. The Importance of Collaboration

Collaboration is integral to John’s design approach, both within his practice and with external artisans. John’s projects often showcase the talents of various contributors, fostering a sense of community and shared achievement in the creative process. Through this podcast, John discusses the importance of weaving their expertise into his projects to achieve unique and complex results. He explores how this collaborative spirit extends to engaging with clients, understanding their stories, and shaping personalised designs. 

Agape Bjhon 2 Pedestal Basin
Agape Solid Mirror

Aside from timber, tiles are one of the other primary materials in John’s home. John sourced the green bamboo tiles in his powder room from a factory he’d visited in Japan, that hadn’t been made for 40 years; the tiles were remade especially for John.

The front section of John’s home is designed to sit between two ancient elm trees. The steel and glass façade cantilevers out over John’s 1963 Lancia Flavia Zagato. A sequence of stone steps winds around an elm tree to the entrance.

5. Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility

This podcast explores how sustainability is increasingly central to John’s practice. His recent projects prioritise energy efficiency and environmental responsibility, incorporating features like re-insulation, double-glazing, solar panels, and sustainable materials. This shift demonstrates his commitment to addressing contemporary environmental challenges through thoughtful architectural solutions. His evolving understanding of environmental impact is reflected in his designs, which now include advanced energy management systems and materials with lower environmental footprints.

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