Architecture firm Grieve Gillett Andersen (GGA) was a clear winner at this year’s SA Architecture Awards taking home five awards across a number of categories.
The studio claimed the City of Adelaide Prize as well as the Gavin Walkley Award for urban design at the annual awards night for their Anzac Centenary Memorial Walk on North Terrace.
“We are grateful for the attention the project has received,” director Dimitty Andersen says of the Anzac Centenary Memorial Walk. “As a major public realm project for the state and City of Adelaide, the project had a high energy level since its beginnings and this has continued post construction.”
In the wake of the awards success, which also saw GGA architect Esther Chew be honoured with the Emerging Architect Prize, five of their key players sit down with The Adelaide Review to explain what drives the practice forward and how people and processes are essential to the studio’s strength.
The Anzac Centenary Memorial Walk won the City of Adelaide Prize and Gavin Walkley Award for Urban Design (photo: Peter Barnes)
“When we talk about people, we need to put into context timeframe, there are no contract designers at GGA, we like to invest in people long-term,” says director Paul Gillett of the firm that prides itself on providing rigorous mentoring and training programs to all employees, in a number of different areas.
This broad approach is essential says Andersen, whose previous firm (Dimitty Andersen Architects) merged with Grieve Gillett in 2014 to form Grieve Gillett Andersen.
“We like to say that the Adelaide architecture market is broad but shallow, meaning there are many different kinds of projects, but not a lot of them at any one time,” Andersen says.
One of the ways in which the practice seeks to enhance its employees’ skillset is in how it structures its teams to promote knowledge-sharing among staff members.
“We have a project director, project architect and a support architect (who may be a graduate of architecture) on a project; each have differing levels of experience,” Andersen says.
Petaluma Cellar Door received a commendation in the Commercial Architecture category (photo: David Sievers)
This structure isn’t just beneficial for its newer design members. “It’s not just about younger graduates learning from senior architects, it goes both ways,” says senior architect Elizabeth Little. “There’s a balance transfer, we learn from the younger designer, too. There are new tools on how to present and create design that’s always changing.”
Contributing to the collaborative culture fostered at GGA, staff members regularly engage in informal presentations of their out-of-office hobbies and experiences.
“There are passive ways of collaborating, and some of that includes having lunch with someone who you aren’t necessarily working on a project with,” says senior architect Tom Doll. “We actively encourage people to share through ‘lunch box’ sessions we hold where we get three staff to present on things they are doing outside of work.”
The practice tangibly works to promote this type of sharing in an open-plan office which encourages this. “There are no private offices in our studio and all of the directors are hands on, so there are open conversations about projects and how to mitigate and deal with design solutions that all team members can witness,” Gillett says.
Crayon House won the John S Chappel Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New) and the Award for Sustainable Architecture (photo: Sam Noonan)
When asked about this year’s scope of wins, and what they believe may have contributed to this, the practice was keen to say they are also interested in feedback from jurors on their projects that didn’t win awards to see what they can garner from that.
“I’m proud of the fact that we as a relatively small firm, are able to produce enough work to enter into the awards in such a broad range of categories and typologies,” says Dino Vrynios, architect and strategic head at GGA.
“We put forward a number of recent projects across different typologies that we felt were worthy of being awarded,” Gillett says. “We approach every project with a high level of engagement and rigour, and on building great relationships with our clients and teams. The family of entries and subsequent awards we received this year demonstrates that our process is healthy and delivers excellent results.”
Header image: Crayon House (photo: Sam Noonan)