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Nick Tobias | Axolotl Luminaries

Each quarter Axolotl puts a series of questions to an industry luminary to an insight into both their talent and their feel for the future. This issue we introduce Nick Tobias from Tobias Partners. Nick’s design philosophies and development strategies are evident in all their work. With an emphasis on enjoyment throughout both the process and in the end product, simple, elegant designs pay tribute to the design ‘idiom’ of expressing “function through form”.

What keeps you inspired?

Regular travel to places I’ve never seen before – at the moment it’s been amazing landscapes, especially deserts - AND - an inbuilt and constant urge to resolve design challenges – it’s like a disease.

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

I suppose the greatest is the creation of a true studio based architecture and design office where design quality is always paramount. It’s what I set out to do and have achieved. When I look around the office at the people who have come together, and the projects we have on our books today, I’m very proud.

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

That’s a grey area. My clients and I are always challenging each other. If I don’t agree with a request, my clients listen and we end up negotiating a win/win scenario. Clients often have interesting ideas however must understand that the reason we are the professionals is that we have the ability to visualise and understand a project in its entirety and therefore be able to make the right decisions at the end of the day.

Are there any architects whose work encapsulates your own ideals?

Most of my ideals come from architects who are now retired or dead – for instance Louis Kahn. However I would like think that some of my ideals are shared with likes of David Chipperfield, Eduardo Souta de Moura, Claudio Silvestrin, and locally Alex Tzannes. The late Neville Gruzman was also a great influence and I had the great pleasure of spending a lot of time with him in recent years.

Did/do you have a mentor?

Too many to list – they are very important in life.

Which Australian building excites you the most?

Drove past the new Norman Foster building in Hunter Street – the inside of the new podium space looked incredible.

What do you see as key trends over the next couple of years in domestic or commercial design?

I’m not that into trends and I don’t believe architecture should be “trendy” so – no. I think architecture and design should be a true expression of so many things but not of trends. 

Which trend in architecture or design are you totally over?

Stacked slate and the “do-it-yourself-renovator’s” look – it’s just a complete rip off of anything good which is done

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

Residential – no, commercial – yes. Design development – not sure, but I hope it just settles down and gets back to basics a little.