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In Conversation With… Carl Pickering

In Conversation With… Carl Pickering

Sydney-born Carl Pickering is one half of Rome practice, Lazzarini Pickering Architetti with his partner of 35 years, Claudio Lazzarini. Frequently spotted around the Eastern Suburbs, we recently caught up with the man behind the iconic Bondi Icebergs restaurant.

ST: You seem to be in Sydney a lot lately.

CP: There has been quite a bit of on interest in our work here of late, and to be honest we don’t know why. We’d thought that we would get more interest after the opening of Icebergs back in 2002. We had thought at least somebody would have approached us for a house in Palm Beach, but that never happened. But right now, there is a demand.

What are you working on?

We are designing two new volumes in a wonderful historical garden in Kurrajong Heights as well as restructuring the house from 1880. We are also designing a Beach Club in Bali for Maurice Terzini as well as a new restaurant for him on an iconic site in Sydney.

An iconic Sydney site?

Yes, but I can’t tell you anymore yet. We’ve signed an NDA and it’s seriously under wraps.

Hmmmm. So what are you working on elsewhere?

We are working on five new houses in different parts of Tuscany, we’re near completion on a villa resort in Umbria where we are restoring a group of buildings and constructing five new villas as well as an art foundation. We are restructuring four hotels – in Positano, Courmayeur and San Domino in the Tremiti islands.

You seem to do a lot of work for the same clients and their families.

Yes. Because we rarely have time to have our work published I guess it’s mostly word-of-mouth. In Europe we have clients for whom we’ve done their houses and their offices and their boats and then their children’s houses and so on.

I’m curious about why you don’t get more work in Australia.

I think Sydney and Melbourne have really sophisticated design communities so I guess why call upon overseas architects when you have so much talent available here? However, I think we offer a different service, each project is quite timeless and unique. When you look at our work you can’t distinguish what was designed twenty-five years ago or yesterday.

Perhaps we have a different attitude to creating houses.

Houses by LPA are less like furniture showrooms than a lot of contemporary Australian houses, we like to create places that are reflections or portraits of their owners. We like to incorporate their family furniture or object collections but we also advise them on buying contemporary art, for instance. All of our projects are very site specific. We call our work site specific portraits of clients because we believe building in New York or London or Melbourne is different to building in Florida, Panama City or South Africa.

You design a lot of the furniture that goes into your houses, in fact many of your pieces now edited by Marta Sala Editions are named after the original LPA client. The offer is, let’s say, a bit more gestural than the typical Italian seat…

We generally we don’t agree with the contemporary Italian sofa where you’ve got to lay almost flat on it or need a crane to get up from it. Our sofas are quite different. We’ve based our designs on the curved and the rectilinear. The idea that everyone can find a seat cushion of the correct depth is critical to us. We like our furniture the way we like our houses, individual.

Having grown up here, is there an Australian-ness to your work?

There’s no doubt that there’s a greater interest in the natural elements and the natural environment than an Italian designer would normally have. Our works entail a lot more respect for light, how it refracts and reflects. We strive to bring it in, to make it precious. Light is vital to us, perhaps more than it is to a typical Italian architectural practice. The other manifestation of Australian-ness is our optimism. I was lucky to be born and brought up in a fantastic middle class Randwick family, my father was a Bondi surfer, so I know that relaxed, confident approach to life. Claudio has been coming to Australia for 35 years now. It’s probably fair to say that he’s become a bit more rat-bagish, like me.

Portrait by Paul Ferman