Before ground was broken on what would become one of the biggest builds of his career, architect Andy Carson camped overnight on the empty site. He’d been there many times before but wanted to immerse himself again in the evolving light, falling night and dramatic shifts of the elements in the location outside Gerringong on NSW’s South Coast. Headland House, the spectacular home he designed to capture sea, land and sky in a striking minimalist style, would go on to win Australian Home of the Year and best Australian Custom Built Home at the HIA Awards in 2019.
Image credit: Kate Ballis & Tom Blachford .
“Throughout design phases and a build, I’m onsite frequently, at different times of the day and across seasons,” says the founder of boutique firm Atelier Andy Carson. “What I’m doing with buildings is connecting people to a place and a way of living. It’s a collaboration between the client, me and the environment.”
It’s an ethos Carson has applied from a property on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road to cafés and bars in central Sydney. “The in-person presentation to a client is always crucial. Yes, you can send plans or drawings over email but I want to read signals you can’t see on a screen. Creatively and practically, it has to feel personal.”
Beyond the pitch-and-win, continually strengthening rapport and trust is key for any business with high-stakes clients. “Communication is the majority of this job. I also work with builders, trades, local crafts. FaceTiming to talk through an issue on the spot is great but it works best when you’ve formed an understanding in person.”
Carson chooses to fly Qantas for the availability of flights that connect regional locations to big cities. And as a Qantas Business Rewards member, he saves on flights and earns even more points on business expenses with partners such as BP and Avis – points he’ll use to fly to and from a current project near Byron Bay. “I visited just after the floods and the loud rushing waters changed the whole experience of the place. That night, I noticed how the full moon aligned with the street and that generated a new idea.”
Fresh thinking and detail, he says, are his firm’s competitive edge. “You can never fly to a site too often. Every in-person visit is an opportunity and I never want to miss a trick.”