Chris Gilbert is director at Archier, which was formed in 2014.
Gilbert has previously studied at the University of Tasmania and completed a masters’ degree.
Architecture & Design spoke to him about why Archier was unhappy with the current lighting options, going from designing buildings to designing lights, and why hospitality shows off Melbourne’s great designs.
Can you tell me about how Archier came about?
After studying together at the University of Tasmania and finishing our respective masters courses in Melbourne, the three of us temporarily parted ways for further study and travel, before cutting our teeth at architectural practices Room 11 and Jackson Clements Burrows Architects.
Throughout this time, we would often meet and discuss our respective office templates and the practice as a whole, and it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the idea of collaboration.
With each of us growing frustrated with the lengthy processes of the various architectural projects we had been assigned to, we dreamt of opening a shared studio space in which we could continue working on architectural projects, whilst also making smaller scale design pieces with rapid prototyping and manufacturing all under one roof. We hoped that the fluctuating nature of architectural jobs could work in hand with the less predictable nature of product design and manufacturing.
Why were you unhappy with the current lighting options?
When we looked at lights on the market, there was either fairly unconsidered standard aluminimum extrusions or visually ‘loud’ feature lights. We weren’t seeing simple yet elegant solutions. Within our style of architecture we constantly want the lighting to be removed as a focus to allow the spaces to express their own volume.
How difficult was it to change from designing buildings to designing lighting?
There are many commonalities between the two disciplines – both dealing with volume and geometry. We’re used to thinking about design as a process so the thinking can be applied broadly.
Did you take a similar approach that you do with architecture or something entirely different?
A very similar approach. We focus on construction methodology through architecture, and it’s the same with our lighting.
You say the quality of design has increased in Melbourne. Can you give some examples of that?
Design in hospitality is a great, visible example. The amount of energy and professionalism put into design for that industry is consistently high. The culture of the design community here is very open and active, which pushes learning and collaboration.
Is there anyone or any particular thing that has had a significant influence on your work?
Working on the Sawmill House with my brother Ben (a sculptor), who sits outside of the design culture. He provided another lens for me to look at design.
What is your favourite building in Melbourne and why?
I’m intrigued by Casa Elda Vaccari, which I pass daily. Its mass and detailing are fantastic.