For 18 years, Sydney architecture practice Fox Johnston has been crafting bespoke residential and commercial projects – and it has become a regular fixture on some of the country’s most prestigious awards lists.
Recently, however, the practice re-branded as Studio Johnston. The move recognises the collaborative nature of the studio’s design process, as well as an opportunity to focus the team’s attention on the entire process, especially interiors.
“We wanted to recognise the studio nature of our practice and the work of two of our longstanding colleagues – Stephanie Robison who is the Director of large projects, and Stefania Reynolds who is the Director of Interiors,” explains Conrad Johnston, Director of Studio Johnston. “Our vision for the practice is to continue doing what we are doing and get better. Every project is a learning experience and so the more we do, the better our projects get.”
The renewed focus on interiors is a timely shift – the pandemic of the past two years has transformed the way we use residential spaces. Not only are people across the world spending more time at home, but the rapid rise in work-from-home has seen the distinction between work and home environments dissolve. As such, we are having to rethink both residential and commercial interiors to adapt to the new normal.
In keeping with this approach, the Studio Johnston team has evolved and grown around the interiors division. “We love our scope of work and want to continue doing the same types of projects,” says Johnston.
“With the rebrand, however, we have recognised and integrated different skillsets for interiors – both for our residential and public work. We also look forward to the challenge of undertaking projects which recognise and work towards a more sustainable future for buildings.”
As Fox Johnston, the studio’s small-scale residential work – which includes the award-winning and much publicised SRG House, a conversion of the former home of Australian modernist architect Sir Roy Grounds – has always informed its larger-scale projects, giving the team the experience and tools to challenge the conventional typology of apartment buildings.
Take, for example, The Rochford. This low-rise apartment village in Sydney’s Inner West was designed with community-oriented living in mind, taking inspiration from European models.
As the practice evolves into Studio Johnston, these kinds of conversations between projects of different scales will continue. “We would really like to design larger, more family-focused apartment building projects,” reveals Johnston. “We believe this is the necessary evolution of the inner-city suburbs.”
Currently, Studio Johnston is working on an innovative mixed tenure residential project for Frasers at Midtown – a project came through a design competition in the midst of the pandemic, which encouraged the team to consider how apartment living will evolve – and a new hotel in Surry Hills. The hotel project is particularly interesting due to the challenge of creating highly functional, bespoke interiors in a small footprint – and it’s an area of design that the studio hopes to focus on going forward.
While it’s often assumed that architects find the outcome of a project the most rewarding aspect of their work, it’s clear from the rebrand that Studio Johnston takes pleasure in the process. “We really love seeing how new projects evolve from the first meeting and conversations on site, through to the final meetings with the builder,” explains Johnston.
“The final building is an evolution of the collaboration of so many people, conversations and influences, and every project is so different. It makes working on projects really exciting.”
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