Interview with Anita Panov & Andrew Scott of Panovscott Architects | Yellowtrace

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 

As someone who’s lucky enough to call the same person her life and business partner, I feel an instant sense of comradery with those who are in the same boat. And although I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Anita Panov and Andrew Scott in real life, I like to think of them as kindred spirits. Am I weird? Let me answer my own rhetorical question here (I know, like – WTF) by saying – no, I don’t think so, dude. And here’s why.

People who are able to successfully (and happily) work with their partner often share some similarities. First of all – they are wholly compatible to be able to work together, this is a given – but that aside, they are also self-aware and cognisant of somebody else’s needs at all times. They are respectful, compassionate, in-tune and have a well-developed sense of intuition. They cast aside ego and pride for the benefit of the common goal. They are open and brave enough to be vulnerable to chuck all their eggs in one basket without holding back. They know how far they can push and when it’s time to pull back so that work doesn’t overwhelm life – especially when life and work are one and the same. Etc. Anyway, my point is that these are the very same qualities that I believe are ideally suited to architects, and especially those who design the most intimate of spaces for their clients – their homes. Which is precisely what Anita and Andrew excel at, and the reason we are here today celebrating their work.

Anita and Andrew established their Sydney-based studio panovscott in 2012. With just 6 years in practice, one might assume they are green-faced emerging architects who made an impact with a bunch of remarkable projects early on in their career, including a host of esteemed awards under their belt already. Except, it’s quite clear, even at just a glance, that this is no work of emerging talent, but rather by two people who have done their time in the industry, having accumulated serious experience via lengthy apprenticeships with much-lauded architects. Besides, Anita is an accomplished pianist and Andrew was a painter before studying architecture, so the depth, richness and sheer poetry of their output can also be attributed to the life they’ve already lived outside of architecture. Hallelujah!

Anyway, that will do me. Today, in partnership with our roomies at Laminex, we take a look at a few beautiful projects by panovsott while taking a deep dive into their approach to life, business and their creative process. Please make some noise for these absolute champions. I’m so stoked to have them here!

 

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace
1 of 16 House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ Hello Andrew & Anita, welcome to Yellowtrace! Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourselves and the path that lead you establishing your practice?

We are Anita & Andrew, partners in life and practice. Together we direct panovscott Architects and parent our two children.

The official story is that panovscott started about six years ago after we had both spent about a decade in apprenticeship at well respected design practices. That said the more revealing story is that our parallel paths began when we shared a furtive glance across the table at a design crit in second year at university.

 

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace1 of 16 House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ What is your main priority when starting your projects? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice, your philosophy and your process?

Having spent quite a bit of time in practice prior to opening our own shop, we began with a clear idea about the type of projects we would seek. That position has continued and we have found that each project really does represent the next in the sense that engagement and the pursuit of excellence is seen and sought out by others.

That idea of a continuum of consideration woven by the speculations and transformations produced by our practice is beguiling. Recently we came across Luigi Ghirri‘s essay called the Open Project from 1984, in which he describes the following story:

“Jorge Luis Borges tells of a painter who, desiring to paint the entire world, begins to make canvases showing lakes, mountains, boats, animals, faces, objects. At the end of his life, putting together all these canvases and drawings, he realises that his immense mosaic has formed an image of his own face…”

In terms of process it was interesting to gather some images to demonstrate our way of making for this interview. There are images, words and models we make, before, during, after and, in some cases, quite some time after the project is finished. Always those representations are made to explore some kind of poetic potential we uncover, inherent in the condition of the project. Like the fine line drawings of 1 of 16 which unveil the new spaces and transformed dynamic of the family in the context of the back yards and the street art gallery out the back. Or the small books we make about each transformation to capture an architectural idea and manifestation. Or the collages we made of the Art Shed in accelerated decay after the project was finished, so that we could test the consequence of our material and detail decisions.

 

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

1 of 16 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace
1 of 16 House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ How do you go about initiating projects – do you do this together or separately? You must find that your partnership enriches your output, but is there ever a time when you drive each other crazy, or when designing or working together can be challenging?

We tend to work together on the tasks at the outset of a project so that our divergent ways of thinking and being can become evident in the design response. When that is done well, it allows each of us to take up different parts of a project seamlessly as it moves through the subsequent stages. This way of working relies on the shorthand we have developed between the two of us – but not just us, also the wonderful people who collaborate with us inside and outside of our office.

Yes, we drive each other crazy. All the time. As challenging as that tension is, it is essential to realise that that tension, when it is founded on mutual respect for what the other will bring to the table, establishes a creative energy that invariably results in an outcome better than each of us could have imagined individually.

Though the productive benefit of collaboration is clear, we have also found the ability to share the intrinsic understanding and support of another is a wonderful antidote to what is a stimulating but also often isolating profession.

 

Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace
Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ How is your studio structured? i.e. How many of you work in the studio, what types of skills do you have in-house, is there anything you are outsourcing, and how many projects do you handle at any one time?

At this moment we are 5 in the office. Alongside us there is Justine, a wonderful architect who has collaborated with us for quite a while now, along with two others who are very competent students of architecture. We also engage with a couple of quite experienced colleagues who have their own emerging practices and operate with divergent outlooks. They help us to stretch when we have a lot on, which seems to be quite frequently recently.

Again, as a deliberate strategy at the outset of our practice, we decided that we would do everything that we could possibly do ourselves in-house. Our experience was that all of those things seemingly peripheral to our core services are actually vital to the quality of the architecture. And operating as we were at smaller scales than we had previously, we could capitalise on the lesser inherent risk to become more well rounded generalists. That ability to understand a little about a lot runs counter to current societal trends but seems such a crucial role of the offering of a good architect.

At one stage a year or two ago we had 25 little projects on the go, which was pretty crazy to juggle at one time and certainly tested our logistical skills. These days we are a little more selective, the projects are generally larger, and we are currently enjoying the great diversity in the things with which we engage.

 

Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace
Art Shed/ Garden Gallery, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ How do you organise and manage the competing demands of modern business and life? Do you have any tip or tricks you could share with us that help you in your day-to-day?

It seemed obvious to us even before we commenced our own practice that the much touted work life divide was a binary condition that was being rapidly eroded by digital connectivity. Our manner of managing that realisation was to conflate the two, so that life and work became one. We like to think about this in the old way, one in which the family is out the back of the shop, a bell rings, the curtain draws back and a head pops out to say g’day. If we are always at work, then similarly there is no limit to the time we can be with family or enjoying life. Of course the reality is that we spend a little too much of our time at our desk! But we are gradually learning how to condense our efforts for better effect.

This melding of life and work continues into our environment such that our office is our house and our house, our office. In this way kids and lunches and baths and goodnights are interspersed throughout our working day. And while our place has a laid back feel, it is always combined with a drive for excellence that emanates from our way of being, not the formality of an office environment.

This melding also allows us to keep our overheads low and manage our cashflow effectively. To some extent, and even in the earliest days of practice, it has freed us to take on work we want to do, rather than work we must.

 

Jac House, Sydney by panovscott |Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace
Jac House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ What do you feel is the most challenging part of being an architect today? And if you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

It would have to be what we see in the world of commercial and large scale architecture, which is the expanding sphere of concern (and liability) that an architect must traverse, coupled with a shrinking sphere of influence.

 

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Jac by panovscott | Yellowtrace
Jac House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ What are some of your methods to stay motivated, focused and expressive? And your top 3 main sources of inspiration and references you are drawn to regularly?

For us experience is the wellspring of all inspiration. Those things that move us via first hand experience having the greatest impact, nuance and so learning potential.

Then there are ideas, which are so wonderfully engaged with via the written word and laden within places and objects.

Then there is the act of making – a meal, a garden, a paper plane, a book, a drawing. These acts, which are generally experiential and intuitive, are continuously inspiring in a heuristic sense.

So in that respect we are reading Georges Perec, making salads with the radishes and rocket from our garden and enjoying those breathless first strokes of freezing salt water in the early morning ocean pool.

 

Bolt Hole House, Sydney by panovscott |Yellowtrace

Bolt Hole House, Sydney by panovscott |Yellowtrace

Bolt Hole House, Sydney by panovscott |Yellowtrace

Bolt Hole House, Sydney by panovscott |Yellowtrace

Bolt Hole House, Sydney by panovscott |Yellowtrace
Bolt Hole House, Sydney. Photography by Murray Fredericks.

 

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other designers, peers and creatives, in general, do you admire?

Back in 2011 we decided to travel to see some of the great buildings of the world. That thought expanded into a list and a map of about 500 buildings and for seven wonderful months we sought them out.

Since then we have undertaken similar (but smaller) expeditions and collected the documentation of hundreds of buildings, objects and makers so that they can influence our own process. To list them here would be quite a long list!

 

3x2 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

3x2 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

3x2 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

3x2 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

3x2 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace3×2 House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

3x2 House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

 

+ What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?

We love J. A Coderch‘s essay, ‘It is Not Geniuses that We Need Now’. One of the biggest lessons we have learned is the power of competence. To be able to converse with the people you meet in various forums and demonstrate how you might add value to any given situation is crucial to the offering of an architect.

We have also learnt that with competency comes confidence and the responsibility to enter the larger discourse about how we transform our environments. And Coderch is always there to reminds us that it is not the other way around.

 

A Small Exhibition, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

A Small Exhibition, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace
A Small Exhibition, UTS Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ What would be your dream creative project or a collaboration?

We love a project that is instigated by a passionate and informed client, with a beautifully complex site, a budget that enables us to chase the appropriate response to a pleasing resolution, and a collection of fantastic people working together to bring that resolution into being.

That said maybe we will go back to Ghirri who, after explaining Borges’ fable, defines a dream project, he says – “My idea of the photographic work stems from all of these considerations and thus the idea of the open work. Not simply because some pieces of the puzzle are missing, but because every single work opens onto an elastic space; it doesn’t become used up in a measurable entity but goes beyond, into a continuous dialogue between what has already occurred and what is still to come.”

 

Armature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Armature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney by panovscott | YellowtraceArmature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision, some of your goals and some of your current projects?

Our goals are to do well what we are asked to do. But then also to engage in the making of a culture in architecture, and more widely contribute in a positive way to society. If we can have a little fun along the way, all the better!

We are really excited about what is coming up in the practice. Current projects include a handful of compact and clever houses for wonderful people. A missing middle dual occupancy development in Bondi. A wonderful house in the Blue Mountains which is about to go on site. We are working with the community at Bronte Beach to make a new Community Centre and change facility. Most of this year we have been developing a Design Guide for Small Lot Housing which will hopefully go some way to introducing better compact housing across the state and particularly at the periphery of our towns and cities. We have been teaching design studios at the University of Technology and University of New South Wales, our students are in their final throes of the semester and it is always a compelling moment. And just this week we have been commissioned to design a small regional museum, our first and a very exciting project for the practice.

 

Armature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Armature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Armature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace

Armature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney by panovscott | Yellowtrace
Armature for a Window Terrace House, Sydney. Photography by Brett Boardman.

 

Let’s Get Real:

+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

We took the long road. Our path to practice has been a winding one, full of diversion and diverse experience. That seeming lack of ambition has equipped us with a worldview, as well as a grounding in society and the practice of architecture which now feels invaluable.

+ Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

We keep coming back to Cicero, and the dichotomy of contentment; all you need is a library and a garden. It seems more and more our role as architects is to make a place in between with some semblance of comfort, but of course not too much!

+ Your most treasured belonging?

Time.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

Anita is an accomplished pianist and Andrew was a painter prior to studying architecture.

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Cicero again, you can often find us with dirt under the fingernails and our head in a book.

 

Interview with Anita Panov & Andrew Scott of panovscott | Yellowtrace
Anita Panov & Andrew Scott are clearly too cool for regular profile pics, so here’s a cool little illustration of the clever duo. Cute much? 

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 


[Images and sketches courtesy of panovscott. Photography by Brett Boardman, unless noted otherwise.]

 

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor
Google+

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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