Director of Cox Architecture Joe Agius sets and guides the design direction for many well-known projects in Sydney.

One of Cox Architecture's latest major projects, in collaboration with Zaha Hadid Architects, was designing the terminal at Western Sydney International Airport. With the airport situated in a flood-prone area, Joe said management of the stormwater was an essential consideration. The terminal’s large roof falls in a singular direction so all the water off the roof can be captured and reused.

“Certainly, consideration of water and its reuse was one of the guiding principles of the design of the terminal building,” he said.

Another major project Joe led was designing the award-winning wildlife retreat at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

“An accommodation project within the context of a zoo is pretty special and unusual,” he said.

Joe said the site itself had a great deal of sensitivity in terms of the bushland context, the hillside topography and the heritage aspects.

“A key consideration at the beginning was how we allow the visitors within this accommodation to engage with the animals in a powerful, direct and emotive way and at the same time ensure there’s no negative impact on the animals as well,” he said.

“And beyond that, there's the whole engagement with Sydney and with the harbour and the surrounding landscape”.

Rather than thinking of the accommodation as a singular building, Cox created five environmentally sensitive, sustainably designed lodges.

Joe said a key consideration during the project was minimising embodied energy in the new build. “We carefully went through existing structures and what we could retain, refurbish and upgrade”.

Cross-laminated timber was selected for the accommodation interior and the exterior is clad in hardwood timber which speaks to the nature of the bushland setting.

Joe commented that the roles of zoos in our society have changed immensely.

“I think zoos today aspire to show the animals as close as possible to their natural habitat and to reveal their natural behaviour and clearly are more respectful to the animals and how we engage with them”.

When asked about the awards the retreat has since received Joe commented that more important than receiving awards was “being true to our principals and true to our clients’ ambitions for the project”.

“And wherever possible try to make some form of contribution to the betterment of our public life in our cities,” he said.

As well as discussing these flagship projects, Joe touched on his drive to create more inclusive and diverse workplace for architects and designers.

Cox are founding members of Champions of Change which sees a group of architectural practices band together to advocate for change and the betterment of women in architecture.

“Our profession is quite challenging for a person balancing home and work commitments,” he said.

“One of the touchstones for me is that we should not attempt to change the women but change the system”.

If you’d like to find out more about designing on notable projects, listen to the full episode here. This podcast is brought to you in association with Stormtech proud sponsors of our 2023 Hospitality & Retail series of podcasts.