Interview: Matt Gibson Architecture & Design

  • Matt Gibson Architecture and Design’s Collingwood studio is a stronghold of Australian design. Established by architect Matt Gibson and co-led by interior designer Karen Batchelor, the practice of 12 has built a reputation on the close interaction of each domain. Coincidently, both designers developed their first tricks of the trade in the UK, but their ability to intertwine the local climate in an all-Australian way is second to none.

    Matt and Karen credit their relationship with likeminded clients and collaboration for the list of awards they have accumulated. Often the firm is entrusted with historic dwellings, each demonstrating a unique interaction with the old. Out of a dynamic use of light, movement and material, Matt Gibson Architecture and Design combines a home’s past, present landscape and its people. It has certainly made for many happy residents over the years, and a whole lot more to come.

    PHOTOGRAPHY Derek SwalwellShannon McGrath & Mark Scruby

    Karen and Matt, you have both worked in design offices in Australia and the UK. How do they compare and how has this experience shaped your aesthetic?

     Karen Batchelor: We have both worked in interior-focused offices that have shaped our office design methodology of designing from the inside out. Given the Australian climate and lifestyle, this has developed to become a holistic approach to interiors, architecture and landscape; thinking about and designing as though they are one.

    Matt Gibson Architecture and Design has accumulated a list of Australian and International awards. What do you think has been the key to your success?

     Karen Batchelor: We have been fortunate enough to work with many likeminded clients. We like to work openly and collaboratively with clients and tend not to have too many preconceived ideas. Our most successful projects are always a result of this collaboration.

    Your practice specialises in existing residential buildings. How does the old and new interact in your work and what materials do you favour?

     Karen Batchelor: Yes, we often work with heritage buildings. We like to explain our new work as another chapter in the story of a house. The existing building will often inspire the direction of the new, not replicating or imitating but used as inspiration for a contemporary language.

     The connections between old and new are sometimes clear and defined; other times there is a stitching with what has gone before. Often, it is about opening up older houses to bring light and air to the heart of the house, while effectively utilising space is key. We look to favour natural materials that share a common language between old and new.

    Karen, what would you say is the most defining characteristic of your work – why do clients choose you? 

    Karen Batchelor: Many clients appreciate our approach of integrating both architecture and interior design; one supporting the other. For example an interior refurbishment would also have an architect involved, or alternatively a new home / addition would have an interior designer as part of the project team from the get-go. This process of integrating architectural solutions with warm, detailed interiors creates a cohesion that is often the difference in making a house a home. 

    Our experience working with heritage buildings and a sensitivity to the combination of old and new often appeals to potential clients. It has also influenced our sense of craftsmanship when using modern materials and techniques.

    I’d also say it’s our diverse and innovative approach to projects that sets us apart. No two are the same; each project draws on the lives of the family, history of the site and neighbourhood. As a result each project tends to be quite unique.

    Matt, you established the Matt Gibson Architecture and Design in 2003. How you think the digital realm has impacted your approach?

    Matt Gibson: I think perhaps our approach hasn’t necessarily been heavily influenced by the digital realm. We certainly work with computer modelling and other techniques to assist the design process and communicate ideas with the client. The biggest impact is probably greater connection with the public and the design industry, through sharing knowledge, values and processes.

    Finally, why do you think your work is relevant to the Australian landscape and climate?

    Karen Batchelor: A fluid and seamless connection between the interior and the outdoor landscape can be seen in all of our projects. Local climate is something that is considered from the start, in how the home shelters from the elements, through to bringing natural light inside.

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