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Harley Graham

Harley Graham is an Australian architect, whose award-winning projects focus on sustainability geared specifically to coastal environments. Harley’s houses and commercial properties use state-of-the-art technology to frame the natural world -- “we find most of our clues from site conditions,” he explains. Playing with balance and asymmetry and drawing from organic forms, the buildings are at once dazzling and completely integrated in the terrain: the beautiful vistas of Byron Bay.

How do you start your day?
On a really good day? We all start out by surfing, and if the surf is good, we come in late. On a really poor day, I’m covered in my children’s toast, and I’m walking in here completely frazzled. What’s the ratio? I would say about 80/20.

So you founded your architecture practice when you lived in Berlin, and it came of age in Byron. Is there a difference in making things between Europe and Australia?
Absolutely. The big difference in architecture is very much cultural and climatic. In Europe, everything was about creating these beautiful forms and wrapping them in skins; they’re these beautiful boxes wrapped in metal skins or a variety of different cladding systems.  In Australia and in Byron Bay, and in this climate particularly, it’s more about the frame -- exposing what’s inside the building and pulling back that skin and having these buildings that open right up and are really permeable and transparent. So, that’s the big difference.

Is there something particular about the vernacular of east coast architecture? how do you push it forward?
We’re influenced by a lot of things. There’s some amazing architecture going on in Australia, New Zealand, even South America, at the moment, which influences us a lot. I remember arriving back from Berlin and thinking “What do i do? What is the architecture of this place?” We were concentrating on all these different countries at the time, but then back here, what do we do? So, I immediately started looking at the mid-century architects in California, and they have had such a big influence on our work. There were all those European architects that fled Europe to work at universities in the States, creating these amazing mid-century projects -- and they are so relevant to Australia because of climate.
What would be your dream project?
I feel we’re doing our dream projects at the moment. For us, we’ve really hit this point -- which is amazing -- where we get a range of projects. We’re doing hotels, resorts, industrial buildings, houses... That was my dream, to have a really broad range, micro to macro, I love going back and forth between those. And all the projects inform each other! I think it makes it a richer, more diverse set of ideas, because of that macro to micro as opposed to focusing on one particular typology.

TEXT BY queenie chan & RAFAEL WAACK

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