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Alexander Tzannes | Axolotl Luminaries

Each quarter Axolotl puts a series of questions to an industry luminary to gain an insight into both their talent and their feel for the future. This issue we drop another big name and introduce Alexander Tzannes from Alexander Tzannes Associates. Alec’s most recent work was recently completed at 484 New South head Road, Double Bay

What keeps you inspired?

A love of architecture, cities, people who make beautiful things and lead creative lives.

What project do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?

There isn’t one project in particular that I would like to highlight. I often have ordinary briefs and development frameworks with inherent conceptual or practical difficulties. I sometimes think back in these circumstances with a sense of achievement even though my role in the process is relatively invisible to my peers.

Have you ever refused to comply with a client request or design? If so, why?

I have declined or resigned work and recommended other Architects who are more suited to the circumstances or the brief.

 Are there any architects whose work encapsulates your own ideals?

Major elements of the design culture of Moneo, Utzon, Guirgola and Wilkinson do so in relatively recent history. There are many facets of the work of Architects in a historical context that have provided knowledge and inspiration. I have travelled widely and understood the difference between experiencing actual buildings and the rhetoric or visual interpretation of buildings. I favour actual over virtual experience to form a better understanding of the ideas of Architects. I say that as I have also not

travelled to places such as Finland and consequently accept that there may be other Architects whose work I could equally admire but out of ignorance don’t include in this list. I also admire the work of many of my contemporaries in Sydney but am ‘too close’ to comment with objectivity. 

Did/do you have a mentor?

I worked closely with Andrew Andersons and Glenn Murcutt for a few years after graduation. Both helped me gain skills as well as define my direction and interests in architecture. I also learnt a lot from studying with Alex Cooper at Columbia and the American work of Aldo Guirgola with whom I also did a program of study.

Which Australian building excites you the most? 

There isn’t ‘one’. Different buildings have inspirational characteristics. The work of Barnett (eg the GPO before it was wrecked inside); Opera House; Wilkinson’s own house in Sydney; Ken Woolley’s Palm Beach House (and others); and rural or some suburban architecture from Le Plastrier, Murcutt and others).

I am generally unsympathetic to design culture that develops ideas appropriated from other disciplines. I look for an architecture that derives from a deep understanding of other architecture, the contextual environment, building, construction and social objectives.

Do you see a lot of development in Sydney over the next year or so?

My guess is that it will probably slow down for a few years.