Many successful practices rely on a name, on a face, to be the brand of their endeavours. For Emerging Architect of the Year Jean Graham, of Winter Architecture, the thought held no appeal.

“The word Winter evokes quiet, cosy, introspective,” says Jean, who although herself the Director of Winter Architecture, prefers to be just one identity in a diverse team.

“I didn’t want to be the face of the company. I wanted lots of people, I wanted a team. I’m not shy, it’s just I don’t really like that image of “hero” architecture, it’s always a team.”

Her formative years in regional Victoria included a double degree from Deakin in Architecture and Construction Management and then fifteen years as a casual academic.

In between were mounting jobs with ‘big companies in Melbourne’, which involved international trips that “made my life complicated’ says Jean with a wry laugh.

“So then one thing led to another and I just got a few jobs here and there and all of a sudden I couldn’t work in the firm anymore and I knew I needed to start doing it on my own.”

Winter Architecture was formed, incorporated just two years ago, and now has a talented workforce spread across Australia, from Perth to Torquay. 

The geographic diversity is a relatively unusual concept, but it works for them, with Jean adding that they may be physically separated, but remain a close unit.

“We touch base every day, whether by phone or Hang Out, we can share our screens and often we get tother as well.”

The Port Melbourne House was her first big project – in fact it took three years in concept and design. 

It was after that completion that Graham stated being a recognised name.

“Emerging? I guess we just haven’t been noticed before. I guess we haven’t been pushing it.”

But that is Jean’s style. Simple tailored, refined are all tags she is happy with – but oddly she balks at the title of being a ‘sustainable’ architect.

“I don’t really like to think of it as an ideal, it’s sort of, it should be natural. It should be a part of everything. It should be happening – not like it’s an add on, it [sustainability] should just be integrated.”

Perhaps not surprisingly this quiet achiever did not expect to be nominated as an Emerging Architect of the Year.

“I’m surprised. It’s exciting, it’s really exciting. It’s good to be nominated.”