Clinton Cole approaches architecture from a slightly different perspective from many of his colleagues in the industry. He not only holds a degree in architecture, and is registered in his profession, but he’s also a licensed builder and accredited construction supervisor. Clinton’s passionate about combining these skills, and transforming the industry. He is also dedicated to creating designs that always have one eye towards sustainability. Clinton has received a swag of awards since establishing his practice in the mid-90s.
Which five words best describe you? Creative, belligerent, inquisitive, disruptive, artistic (at least those were the words my teachers used on my school report cards and they would know best).
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? What I am doing now is very similar in many ways to what I did when I was a kid - pulling objects apart and reassembling them, building things from scrap material I would find around building sites near my home, working with my hands creatively with many different materials and mediums. The challenge has always been working out how to use my skills most effectively in the team environment that I lead and do less of the physical side of construction which I spent my first 10 years doing. It is little more than a romantic notion to do everything yourself, architecture is a craft but not a sustainable craft nor meaningful craft if only 50 or so projects are produced from a lifetime of energy as both an architect and builder. The path I have taken in the last five years is to create a business environment in which reciprocal learning is cultivated amongst a broad cross-section of design and construction-based team members to allow my company to successfully deliver multiple projects at different stages of production concurrently.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Architects are their own worst enemy when it comes to providing services for free. Getting too close to clients generally leads to a relationship where favours rather than invoices are expected. What I have learnt is that clients appreciate a service that brings value to them and their project not just value for money. If you provide services for free your time has no value. Be professional: your client is not paying you for your friendship. The reality is that the clients whom you provide a professional and valuable service to during the performance of the work often become a friend after completion of that service.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Creating a company that consists of exceptionally talented team members and getting to a stage where I can - almost - balance work and family, although imbalance can be a healthy thing in a creative industry.
What’s been your best decision? Marrying my soul mate and having children. The second best decision I made over 10 years ago was splitting with my then business partner and realising I could lead a team on my own and produce much better results. This was quite a pivotal moment in my life.
Who inspires you? Anyone who is hard working, loves life, is creative or respects those that are. My wife is my true inspiration. Architecture and creativity are everything to me but perspective from a partner not directly part of the industry I am involved in keeps my approach to the design of architecture objective and my approach to the business of architecture free of tradition and indoctrination which the practice of architecture in Australia suffers greatly from.
What are you passionate about? I am passionate about making architectural design more affordable. Whilst I enjoy making beautiful things which cost more than most can afford the fact that my friends and family can’t really afford what I produce is something I have spent the past three years trying to address. Watch this space as I am getting close to a solution that I hope will change the way the average Australian will think of architecture and whom architects think they can deliver architecture to.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I’d have a coffee with Alvar Aalto, a cup of tea with Nanna Ditzel and a beer with Kurt Cobain.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Playing Wembley stadium to a crowd of 100,000, but I think I’ll have to download an app for that and experience it through my Google Glass. Next year we will be starting to develop our own properties and this has been a dream since I started my career.
What are you reading? My reading list is a little sad. I tend to read technical documents, standards, building codes, Acts, legal precedents and the like. The practice of architecture and indeed construction is increasingly restricted by so many external forces that the only way to work through them is to have a fundamental understanding of what those forces are. It’s on this basis that we can push boundaries and take risks whilst steering through the middle of these issues. Other than this I am definitely a picture book sort of person. I love any architecture books, particularly those where images are what they are instead of the fully pimped hyper reality architectural photography of today. I read a little online, get great little pieces through Twitter and I only read newspapers when I am on holidays and usually because my hot chips were wrapped in them.