Q+A with our new associate, Nadia Zhao.
When did you realise you wanted to be an architect?
When did you realise you wanted to be an architect? I remember as a child going to the Whitlam Library (Harry Seidler) in Cabramatta. It was like nothing else in the area. There was a real sense of arrival and the quality of the internal space was open and light, it felt special and I always enjoyed being there. Later, when I was in high school, my parents were considering knocking down the family home and starting again. I wanted to help them in this process, and this is where my interest in architecture first began.
While you have experience across a number of sectors including commercial, community and education, you have a real depth of experience in residential design. How did you come to specialise down this sector path?
I worked for several years at a practice who specialise in residential design, particularly at the high-end. I learnt how to document the detail to achieve a very high-end product. But I enjoy working at the more affordable end of the market too and always try to optimise a space. People will spend their lives in the buildings we design, we need to ensure every home will be a comfortable place for the residents to live.
What do you think makes a good designer?
Someone who can understand the client’s objectives and can then give them something more than they were expecting. I think a good example of this has been the project we have been working on at Marine Parade, Maroubra. The body corporate was dealing with a dilapidated building, but to knock it down and rebuild the same thing would not have been financially viable. We were able to increase the number of apartments on the site to improve the projects viability while also creating more amenity to ensure that even with the increased density, residents will have a better place to live.
What have been your career highs?
Every project that has been built! Seeing my hard work realised as a finished building is always a high. And I love working through the construction phase. No matter how much documentation you produce there’s always unexpected issues to address on-site. And I enjoy working with the contractor – being a passionate DIYer has given me a real appreciation for how challenging building can be – it’s great working together to solve on-site problems that can’t be anticipated, while making sure the design still achieves the overall vision.
When great design concepts never eventuate.
Which projects have you most enjoyed working on?
Kiama House – It had all the ingredients to deliver a great project – a beautiful site, a great brief, generous budget, good contractor and consultant team. We knew we couldn’t leave it till site to incorporate the services in the design detailing. We have some really nice people at AJ+C who are great to work – we thought through the issues early and researched how to accomplish what we were trying to achieve. The end result was a high level of resolution in the design and a beautiful building for our client to live in and being able to experience their joy.
Macquarie Park Village – The way the documentation was set up – we really took it to the next level using our tools to the max.
What is it about AJC that makes you most proud of working here?
I like that we try to produce high quality work every time and everyone is supportive in achieving that. We help each other out. And every day there’s an opportunity to improve. The practice also regularly puts on inspiring talks and we have an amazing Office Manager who loves to cater these events for us.
What do you enjoy most in your role?
Working through the problems in the plan. I like to keep at it if something’s not right, to get the plan resolved and make things as efficient as possible.
What else should we know about you?
I love being hands on with building and helping my family with projects – it makes me happy to see instant results.