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    Dominic Finlay-Jones comments on working with Bruce Rickard and Byron Bay architecture

    Stephanie McDonald

    Dominic Finlay-Jones is the founding principal of Dominic Finlay Jones Architects (DFJArch).

    Originally from Fremantle, Western Australia, he completed his architecture degree at the University of Sydney in 2000.

    Architecture and Design spoke to Finlay-Jones about working with Bruce Rickard, why it’s important to engage with the Byron Bay community, and how Byron Bay’s architecture is changing.

    You trained under Bruce Rickard. What was the experience like?

    It was pretty special. He was hugely generous with the wisdom of his 50 or so years’ experience garnered in the field, and I feel incredibly lucky to have spent the formative period of my career under his wing.

    What are some key things you learnt from Bruce?

    Bruce was all about the site and the optimal placement and orientation of the building within it. He championed the use of robust natural building materials and native gardens, as well as the significance of the human scale, and I carry all of these things with me into my practice every day.

    You are involved in a number of community groups in Byron Bay. Why is it important for you to be engaged with the community?

    The Byron Shire is a very unique community for many reasons, and if you love living here, you can’t help but get involved. Over the last 10 years I have seen increasing pressure on the area to grow and change, but how do we do that without becoming over-developed and losing our character? It is a passionate, complex and ongoing conversation with no simple answers, so engagement within the community puts me in a better position to navigate these difficult questions.

    What are you currently working on?

    Recently we have been working on a lot of local government infrastructure projects, and are about to break ground on the new Lismore Regional Gallery. Providing a relatively low-cost climate-controlled space in our hot and humid sub-tropical environment has proven to be quite a technical challenge, as has building a new Marine Search & Rescue Tower on reclaimed riverbed down in Ballina.

    One of our most exciting commercial projects has just begun construction on the outskirts of Byron Bay – a sustainable 12 acre mixed-use creative industries village called Habitat. Renowned urban designer/architect Rod Simpson has given us an innovative masterplan to work from, specifically targeting small businesses and remote workers with its high-speed NBN connection and life/work housing solutions.

    Projects like this, we feel, respond appropriately to the challenges we’re facing as a regional area under pressure, and we expect to see many others follow suit.

    How would you describe Byron Bay's architecture?

    Byron Bay is one of the large number of coastal towns once dominated by beachside fibros and weatherboard bungalows to be overtaken by pretty average architecture over the last few decades, unfortunately. Forerunners such as Ian McKay, Phil McMaster and Christine Verdasz brought fresh perspectives to the area in the 1970s and 80s, and now more recently, we have another emerging collective of quality local architects.

    If you could do anything else for a job, what would it be?

    Probably a farmer – there are few places I’m happier than in my garden. But in the meantime, it provides a very welcome counterbalance to the pressure of running a busy practice.

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