Interview with Thomas Bailey, Room11

I recently had to opportunity to interview Thomas Bailey from the collaborative architecture office of Room11. Located in Hobart and Melbourne, Australia, Room11 was founded in 2005 by Nathan Crump, James Wilson, Aaron Roberts and Thomas Bailey. The collective met at university and today produce work that is progressive, dynamic and critical, extending the profession of architecture into the realm of research and public discourse.

Thomas explores through Room11 the possibility for landscape to populate architecture appropriately.  He also works in industrial and furniture design. The work of Room11 is  unique and specific to every brief,  responding to conditions of material, earth and light. Room11 have received national and international recognition for their sustainable and socially conscience projects. They are currently working on new residential projects and the second stage of GASP.

Below is my interview with Thomas, I in particular love his response to question 6:

Interview with Thomas Bailey from Room11

AN: 1. Which of your projects has been the most rewarding and why?

TB: It is difficult to say which project is most rewarding for Room11, certainly for Nathan, James and me (Thomas) building our own houses is rewarding everyday. I think it is very easy as a designer to end up giving all your good ideas away and living with very little. Making your own house is a great testing ground but also it improves your life to be surrounded by a building that reflects your values. You also learn a lot about simple things that usually are not important to architects who tend to be focused on aesthetic resolution of junctions and less on plumbing or how well a door works over the seasons of a year.

I guess the first building I did with Aaron, Clifton Beach House 01, kinda set things up in some way – it was a great leap to realise that your ideas once built actually had some of the qualities you hoped they would.

Clifton Beach House 1 – Image Source [1]

AN: 2. Room11 are active bloggers, why?

TB: Shameless self promotion. No it gives us an opportunity to use the web in the way it was intended as more 
of a communication tool instead of a brochure and marketing tool which is the bulk of commercial web use.

Little Big House – Image Source [1]

AN: 3. How do you think architecture will change in the next 50 years?

TB: I don’t know – it is tempting to say lots of positive progressive ideas such as – ‘architecture will become a method for liberation,’ it needs to get out of its silo and actually do something useful. Rise up and stab the ‘musing brigade’ with our clutch pencil sabres! It is very narrow, it needs to broaden.

AN: 4. What changes would you like to see in the Architectural profession?

TB: Other than what I have already indicated I would like to see more young firms being given a go. It is a tragedy that the finest minds of a generation are forced to plug in to headphones and 3d model very dull ideas by someone else.

AN: 5.Do you think that architecture tends to be trendy today?

TB: Sure – architecture is the sales of ideas, it is harder to sell something subtle like having a nice life. It is 
much easier to say hey ‘diagonal is new’ – I will give you some ‘diagonal’ stuff, you will pay me.

AN: 6. What would students learn from reviewing the body of projects you have completed?

TB: If you want to make buildings you should. I don’t like people who are not sure what they should do – I am 
not talking about not questioning yourself or moving in haste, but certainly work by people who are unsure just says ‘I’m not sure’ which does not really help the cause. Who wants to walk down a street of insecure buildings? I don’t, I want to walk down a street of confident generous buildings. Building should always be an act of generosity, that is very important, if you can honestly say that your building is generous to anyone who may come across it then you should proceed. We also think that architects should have a very good understanding and knowledge of construction – be practical as well as utopian, if that is possible…

AN: 7. What are you most proud of in your career or any aspect of life?

TB: My relationship and daughters. (Vomit if you must – sorry)

AN: 8. Who do you think is the most overrated architect, and who do you think deserves more credit/recognition?

TB: Underrated in Australia: Peter Markli, Morger and Degelo, Lewerentz, Sean Godsell, Esmond Dorney. I still think Mies is underrated and misunderstood, so is Corbusier.

AN: 9. What aspect of Architecture do you find most important?

TB: What is fundamental to your practice and your design process? 
Loving what you are doing is fundamentally important, it is key to have fun in order to offer something positive, we like to enjoy ourselves in our studio as well as work hard. We also have an analytic approach to design tasks and would rather arrive at a solution based on given elements rather than imposing something onto a problem.

AN: 10. What inspired you to become involved in Architecture?

TB: Sheds always inspired me as a kid, I found a picture of the Villa Savoye and was obsessed with it and 
maybe still am, in a different way. My dads 70’s Bang & Olufsen turn table. Music is really key to being inspired, it is also inspiring to see other people doing well and making worthwhile projects.s.

AN: 11. What other interests do you have?

TB: Lots of music, I cycle, Scandinavian design, we are interested in made things really.

AN: 12. What is your favourite time of the day, and why?

TB: Dawn, all architects are interested in newness.

AN: 13. What would be your ultimate design project?

TB: I don’t really like the idea of ‘unlimited funds’ I enjoy having parameters, without parameters it is sculpture not architecture. That is not to say that I would not accept a sculpture commission that was building scale, it just might be better if a sculptor did it.

AN: 14. What are you doing at the moment?

TB: Some great housing projects and a few larger scale buildings, they are all buildings.

AN: 15. Who would you most like to work with on a project?

TB: Oscar Niemeyer.

Stage 01 GASP – Image Source [1]

Death Cloud – Image Source [1]

ARH2 – Image Source [1]

Mountain House – Image Source [1]

I’d like to thank Thomas and Room11 for participating in the interview, it was a pleasure. If you’re interested in getting in touch or finding out more about Room11, visit their website.

If you are interested in being interviewed and featured on Archi-Ninja, please contact me.


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