We sat down with Andrew Hebden, the creative force behind Hebden Architects to talk about design, collaboration, and the emerging trends you should watch out for.
Hi Andrew, can you tell us a bit about your career and how you launched your firm, Hebden Architects?
I’ve worked in various firms, large and small, across a wide range of building types, but residential is an area I’ve tended to gravitate towards. About 12 years ago, I had just enough of my own work that would sustain me … so, I ventured out of the firm, just to see how I’d go. I’m still going!
What changes have you noticed when it comes to a client’s approach to their property during COVID?
COVID has seen an increase in enquiries. Normally, we notice a spike around Christmas and Easter when homeowners are together for an extended period of time. While they’re together, they’ll look at what else needs doing, and have “the conversation.”
Ordinarily, the discussion goes like this: One may want the renovation, while the other isn’t so sure. Cost is usually a factor for one party, but both want their own space … and that’s where we come in.
What advice do you give families who are passionate about design but don’t necessarily have the resources to do a complete remodel?
Prioritize. Get an architect to help you analyze your needs and options, so you can develop the most important aspects. This will give you the best bang for your buck and allow you to create a strategy you can build on.
What do you think is the biggest mistake clients make when approaching design changes to their properties?
Looking at the price, rather than the value. Seeing the price for its cost, rather than as an investment.
This is particularly the case if the project is for themselves, not just to sell for a profit. Their own happiness has value!
I’ve found that the biggest misconception is around price; everyone’s dreams exceed their budgets.
Also, many do not consider fundamentals, such as their connection to the site, natural light, and ventilation, et cetera.
It comes down to appreciating the difference between “building” and “architecture.”
The thing that clients need to ask when approaching a new project is, “How do we get the most out of this site, given our brief and our budget?”
While you’ve had an established career, what still excites you about design?
The chance to create a solution that satisfies the brief and the budget, but is also aesthetically beautiful. Preferably, in a way that the client hadn’t expected. Architecture is more than just “building” a structure.
Hopefully, the process engages the client with their site and makes them appreciate design. Hopefully, it allows them to view the world a little differently. Architecture should bring happiness!
What do you think will be the biggest design trend going into 2022?
Home office space is going to be a big one, especially if we continue to stay away from the office. People are finding it important to curate their own space, so they can be productive when working from home.
Also, I think rechargeable batteries and solar panels, as well as small gardens (including vertical ones), will take off in 2022.
Finally, tell us about your vision for your latest project. How did you execute it?
The brief was for a pair of duplexes designed for downsizing empty nesters. It had to fit in a relatively small space, in a steep rocky setting with access issues, while still exploiting the site’s water views. It was also situated next to a view corridor and had many neighboring properties overlooking it. We were also required to retain a large native tree at the southern end of the site, and create the appearance of a single dwelling with a shared entry point. The unit on the northern end allowed for a large balcony, which enabled us to fully embrace the water view.
For privacy, we screened the property with vertical battens around the curved edge of the site. Other design elements included high banks of glass louvre windows for cross-ventilation. At the ground level opening, the casual living areas combine with the covered patios adjacent, connecting the site to the green spaces beyond.
Additionally, we implemented two banks of vertical gardens at the entry and a large array of solar panels on the roof. The southern unit peeks past the other to get the view. It incorporates a hi-lite (or “cupola roof”) which increases light, ventilation, and a sense of space. Stone is incorporated into the façade, referencing the sandstone retaining wall on the eastern boundary. The first-floor balcony is large and features extensive planter boxes.
Ultimately, this scheme is about connecting with the limitations of the site: the private spaces at ground level, the light and views to the north, and filtering multiple neighbors for privacy; all while ensuring that the building was a positive addition to the street.
Hebden Architects specialize in sustainable, adaptable residential architecture in Sydney and its surrounding areas. They consider the long-term use of a building during its lifecycle to make it truly livable with a design approach which allows for easy adaptability in response to the changes in the life of the inhabitants, creating long-term, meaningful occupation. Through maximizing the potential of each client’s unique site, brief, and budget, they aim to realize the lifestyle which clients wish to aspire, now and in the future. Hebden designs the right fit by responding to place and optimizing the connection to natural light and ventilation.