Marking three decades since Scott Carpenter opened his first practice, the architect shares insights on designing for local climates, explains why our regions deserve strong architectural identities – and talks about how the Regional Architecture Association can help create them.
Your career in the architecture and design industry started in 1992, when you set up an architectural drafting practice. What got you into the industry in the first place?
My father owned a design and construction company in Central West New South Wales in the 70s and 80s. And so I was watching him draw up these terrific homes already as a six-year old, and spending school holidays on building sites later on, as a teenager. Although, I think it quickly became obvious that I was much better with a pen than a hammer, so architecture seemed to be a natural path.
And even though I missed out on getting into architecture by six marks the first time, I completed drafting at TAFE which boosted my technical skills and construction knowledge, and put me in good stead for when I went back to university to learn the more creative side of architecture.
In 2003 you established Scott Carpenter Architect and started specialising in residential design appropriate to the unique South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales climate. Has the role of environmental considerations in your practice evolved since?
The basic passive design principles have not changed, and I believe it always begins with understanding your specific environment. When designing for the South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales climates, you start by orienting as many rooms as you can towards the North. Then, you make sure that the windows are shaded in the summer, but allow the sun to penetrate the interiors in winter. At the same time, you respect and manage the early morning sun, as well as the late afternoon western sun. You provide the right thermal mass and insulation – and learn where the cooling breezes and harsh winds come from, so you can manage them to create good cross-ventilation.
Over the years, there have been many environmentally sustainable products and systems that you have had to stay on top of, but I still believe that those passive design principles are as relevant as ever.
In 2018 Scott Carpenter Architect became Create Architecture. How did that come about – and what is the focus on the practice today?
We changed the name of the practice because I had some terrific staff who I wanted to bring on as partners and associates, and it was paramount that our whole team had a sense of ownership, rather than build equity in my own name.
In terms of our focus, for quite a while now, we've been very successful around Northern New South Wales and Southern Queensland, building an in-depth understanding of the subtropical climate, and designing beach homes and coastal properties for this environment. We have also completed quite a few projects in the hinterland, which is an area many people from this part of the East Coast have been moving to recently.
But what’s really exciting is that we’re looking at moving into the alpine region of New South Wales – Jindabyne. The NSW Government has identified this area as a Special Activation Precinct set to become a year-round destination.
We have now completed a couple of residential projects and designed a few homes for friends and family there, and for me this is really exhilarating because I am once again learning about a new region. Being able to understand the climate and the people who live there before designing is crucial to create homes that have a strong regional identity. I've seen it work exceptionally well around Queenstown, in New Zealand, and I think Jindabyne can go down the same route, if done properly.
The desire to create a sense of regional identity is one of the qualities underpinning the Regional Architecture Association (RAA), which you are one of the Founding Members of. It’s a network of regional practitioners that focuses on positive change in the regions – “the most important area of future urban growth in Australia.” Can you tell us more about it?
The RAA was created in 2021 by a group of like-minded regionalists who came together because we recognised the role of problem solvers that architects can play in regional communities. During the pandemic, there was a significant population shift to the regional parts of New South Wales, and we noticed the need to drive positive change in those areas to ensure they get a strong regional identity through architecture.
RAA believes that change should occur in a way that truly celebrates the uniqueness of each place, and caters for the diversity of community life – and architects are valuable resources that help that process. And so, as an organisation, we encourage and support regional practitioners to strengthen the practice of architecture, and drive a better understanding of its value and benefits for those local communities.
The not for profit was originally established by nine passionate architects, and today the RAA has 12 members on the Founding Committee, with a range of wonderful Founding Technical Members, such as Stormtech.
And when did you first come across Stormtech’s offering?
It was 2003. I was just establishing Scott Carpenter Architect, and Stormtech was becoming one of the key players in the industry.
We first discovered linear drains, which quickly became one of our design staples. Bigger tiles were becoming popular, and clients didn’t want step downs in the showers, so we started specifying linear drains almost throughout all of our projects. Then we came across the threshold drains, which were a true game changer because they allowed us to create a flush floor from inside right through to the external terrace area. And that's a design methodology we use in over 90% of the homes we design.
We have specified Stormtech ever since. Once we're onto a good thing, and it's tried and tested, we stick with it.