PIV­OTAL ROLE

Wil­liams Burton Leop­ardi clev­erly dove­tail ar­chi­tec­ture with in­te­ri­ors, in­ven­tively weav­ing to­gether the mi­cro and macro in ev­ery project.

Belle - - Architecture Right N Ow - Por­trait JEM CRESS­WELL Words KAREN MCCART­NEY

SOME­TIMES A CITY finds the ar­chi­tects it de­serves and vice versa. There is some­thing in the phi­los­o­phy of Wil­liams Burton Leop­ardi around the in­ter­sec­tions of mem­ory and con­text, her­itage and con­tem­po­rary life, ex­ter­nal form and in­te­rior space, that is very much at home in Ade­laide. The founder of the long-es­tab­lished South Aus­tralian prac­tice, Robert Wil­liams re­tired in 2015 leav­ing the busi­ness with two direc­tors, ar­chi­tect David Burton and in­te­rior de­signer Sophia Leop­ardi.

“We nd clients re­spond to hav­ing both the in­te­ri­ors and ar­chi­tec­ture con­sid­ered in tan­dem. It means we can de­liver a co­he­sive de­sign vi­sion that en­sures a build­ing works for the rit­u­als of daily life,” says Sophia Leop­ardi. It wasn’t al­ways this way. “While we were con­stantly col­lab­o­rat­ing across dis­ci­plines it took a re­view of our most suc­cess­ful projects to see clearly how in­te­grated think­ing from the out­set pro­duced bet­ter re­sults,” she says. The mi­cro and macro dove­tail, such as when a client wanted to re­tain a much-loved din­ing ta­ble, which they re­lated struc­turally to a door open­ing, or how ma­te­ri­als weave from in­side to out con­nect­ing the two spa­ces.

An­other ex­am­ple is a res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment project at Bow­den, ve min­utes from Ade­laide’s CBD. In­stead of the usual cookie-cut­ter ap­proach to off-the-plan apart­ment in­te­ri­ors, WBL opted for a term coined by the prac­tice, “el­e­gant fru­gal­ity”, which used form ply in a gen­er­ous and strate­gic way to vis­ually link split lev­els. Aimed at a young de­mo­graphic, the cre­ation of thought­ful mo­ments, such as a stair tread dou­bling as ca­sual seat­ing, or a log­i­cal place to po­si­tion the TV, re ects how peo­ple like to live and so held great ap­peal for the tar­get au­di­ence.

But much of the work WBL un­der­takes, with skill and sen­si­tiv­ity, is with Ade­laide’s many her­itage build­ings in the res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tors. Their award­win­ning Base64, a co-work­ing space for start-ups in Kent Town, is the brain­child of tech­nol­ogy en­tre­pre­neur Si­mon Hack­ett, who bought the ram­bling se­ries of four build­ings in­clud­ing a signi cant 1865 res­i­dence called Wavertree. The im­pres­sive blue­stone and sand­stone build­ings had a num­ber of iden­ti­ties over the years, in­clud­ing a the­o­log­i­cal col­lege and a TV pro­duc­tion stu­dio, each con­tribut­ing un­for­tu­nate and ill-con­ceived ad­di­tions. “Much of what we did was peel away the generic of ce space di­vi­sions and im­pose a re­straint, a clar­ity of vi­sion and ra­tio­nal or­der over what re­mained,” says Burton. The clients clearly loved the prop­erty’s his­tory but saw that it needed to per­form with 21st-cen­tury func­tion­al­ity, such as in­te­grat­ing com­mu­nal space into the scheme and pro­vid­ing pri­vate work­ing ar­eas. The cen­tral court­yard is piv­otal to the de­sign and the kitchen with its out­door ac­cess and rich ma­te­ri­als pal­ette makes it the per­fect place to hang out.

One of the most in­ven­tive ex­am­ples of their work is at Ibe­ria, a span­ish restau­rant co-owned by chef An­drew Dou­glas. With no room for a stan­dard tapas so­lu­tion, the in­tegrity of the site’s orig­i­nal stone wall adds a ro­bust en­ergy to the venue matched by WBL’S in­ser­tion of a formed con­crete bar, tinted a dusty pink, which reads as an enor­mous sculp­ture. Up­stairs, in the re­stricted width of 4.5 me­tres, a com­mer­cial kitchen and seat­ing for 20 tables are housed un­der a rhyth­mic canopy of formed oak dow­elling. “One food critic said it re­minded him of the rib cage of a sh,” re­ports Leop­ardi.

A grow­ing num­ber of res­i­den­tial clients are recog­nis­ing WBL’S will­ing­ness to ex­plore their needs and de­liver a so­lu­tion that, while fil­tered by their ex­per­tise, speaks to the client’s lifestyle and aes­thetic as­pi­ra­tions. “We learned from Rob Wil­liams, who had a dis­arm­ing man­ner and would get clients to talk about them­selves in a way that felt un­self­con­scious and gen­uine. That was al­ways his start­ing point and we have made it ours,” says Leop­ardi. de­sign­by­wbl.com.au

“We find clients re­spond to hav­ing both the in­te­ri­ors and ar­chi­tec­ture con­sid­ered in tan­dem.”

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