Chris Hayton, principal at ROTHELOWMAN, is responsible for design direction and sustainability across the practice.

Prior to joining ROTHELOWMAN in early 2007, he was a client of the firm with the Becton Property Group for almost four years.

Architecture and Design spoke to Hayton about the challenges of working in Papua New Guinea, why context in a project can mean more than physical factors, and why restrictive projects produce innovation.

You've worked on a master plan for a Port Moresby project. Can you tell A&D about it and some of the challenges of working in Papua New Guinea?

We were asked to undertake a study for a new residential and hotel precinct between the centre of Port Moresby and the airport. The project vision was to provide an integrated precinct that addressed the demand for improved quality housing and hotel accommodation in the area.

Working in PNG requires an adjustment in some expectations and it can be a challenging place to be on the ground, though the nature of our work meant that the majority could be completed remotely.

What was your most important skill set in a country like PNG?

I think understanding the context in the broadest possible terms is critical when working in an unfamiliar environment. Context isn’t just physical but includes a multitude of less tangible influences such as culture, history, social and economic factors and the future.

You've worked across quite a few sectors. Which sector is the most challenging?

I think delivering high quality, higher density residential projects is one of the most challenging aspects of our work. The skills required and constraints within which we work are frequently underestimated. Balancing the conflicting components of often-difficult briefs and delivering high quality results demands considerable expertise, and having worked in the sector for over 20 years, I have a lot of admiration for anyone practicing that can consistently produce good quality buildings.

Which sector do you most enjoy working in?

I am drawn towards larger scale mixed-use developments that have the potential to play a significant role in the evolution and regeneration of cities. I am an advocate of greater complexity in our urban environments and seek to provide design solutions that will contribute in a meaningful way to the modern urban environment.

Do you prefer projects where you have many restrictions or ones where there are few limitations?

I enjoy the process of investigation and innovation that restrictions prompt and generating solutions which might be, at face value, counterintuitive yet have the potential to deliver really positive outcomes. I get frustrated by the frequency with which we encounter obstructive constraints, which are restrictions which fail to deliver any meaningful benefit and prevent an obviously improved outcome.

If you weren't an architect, what would you be doing?

The only other career that I considered was photography. I sometimes wonder where my camera would have taken me if I had pursued it.