I am always on the look out for people in the architecture, design and building industry who support and use sustainable and environmental approaches in their work. Even better when they have a clear vision about the importance of social issues in design of homes and other buildings. I came across Green Point Design and thought they looked well worth sharing!
Green Point Design was established in 1998 by architect Eric Zehrung to blend interests in environmental and social issues with good quality design. Eric says that they” maintain a small core office and work with a flexible network of consultants to suit specific project types and sizes. Clients benefit from the personal service of a small practice with the diversity of expertise of a larger group.”
They have participated in a number of project types throughout Victoria including residential, tourism, commercial, government and health care and cater to a variety of building budgets ranging from about $200,000 to $2 million.
(all images via Green Point Design website)
Could you please give us a quick introduction to start with, who you are and the history of Green Point Design?
I grew up on the west coast of the United States and studied architecture in Oregon, USA and Liverpool, England. My wife, Sue, is from Melbourne. We met while travelling in Italy and have been in Victoria since 1989. I started Green Point Design in 1998 after working for other architects and builders for a number of years. Going solo can be terrifying but also exhilarating. When choosing a name, we decided to wear our heart on our sleeve and embed the concept of sustainability right in front. There were only a few people doing that back in the 1990’s, so there was a risk of being pigeonholed. When we thought about it, though, it is a happy pigeonhole to occupy! A few years ago, we considered expanding, but in the end decided to stay small. The office has a staff of two: me and my wife, Sue, who is an interior designer.
You mention that you started the business to blend interests in environmental and social issues with good quality design. Can you give some insight into the social issues that interest you in design and what inspired you to go the environmental track?
I suppose the environmental aspect of my work began with the old principle of cleaning up our own mess and leave things nice for whoever comes next. It can be applied to anything we do. Ultimately, environment, society and culture are all the same thing.
You have participated in a number of project types throughout Victoria including residential, tourism, commercial, government and health care – can you tell us a couple of your favourites?
According to legend, when the great American architect Frank Lloyd Write was asked which was his favourite project, he replied “the next one.” While I like to hear feedback from clients and users, I am mostly focused on the present. Architecture takes time. It is common for several years to pass between having an idea and seeing a completed building.
What do you think are the important things to consider when building a home?
Consider both the objective and the subjective.
Objective issues might involve the local climate or a remote location. For example, we might wish to orient either toward or away from breezes depending on the local climate. If the site is very remote, materials like concrete might be expensive and energy intensive to transport, so I will opt for light weight alternatives.
Subjective considerations begin with what the building will be used for. Ultimately, the building should serve us – to accommodate our activities and our possessions. It should make life easier, more enjoyable and more fulfilling. The appearance will often follow from that. There is a design principle that if spaces are arranged in a balanced and harmonious way then the three dimensional appearance will also be balanced and harmonious. Beauty is not something that can be pasted on at the end.
What is your design process when working with a client, how do you tend to work with them when designing their building?
My approach is quite collaborative. I like to involve clients with the decision making process. We begin with a clear brief so we know what we are looking for. I present options at each stage so we can discuss merits and make decisions. I love looking at options. It frees the mind. Even a questionable idea may lead to something useful. Happiness is having too many ideas on the table!
Do you have a favourite style yourself in architecture and interior design?
I don’t keep up with trends and fashion very well. “Tasteful and timeless” would describe my intentions. I like to imagine places aging gracefully and getting better with age.
The people and the places inform a design. The diversity helps me maintain enjoyment of the profession.
What is your first memory of being interested in design and architecture?
I come from a family of owner builders and do-it-yourselfers. My family built a little weekender house by the coast. They made the cabinetry and the wooden furniture, and even the paintings for the walls. There were always little projects going on. I took a drafting class in high school and got the bug for drawing and design, and soon had a part time job in a local building design office. From then on, it was architecture all the way: travelling, working for builders and studying architecture. I was a rare and fortunate young person to have a clear idea of a career at a very young age.
Do you have any people or sources of inspiration in your work?
People often tease me about my travel sketchbooks. They depict very few well-known building as I have been enchanted by simple, anonymous everyday places.
There are many brilliant designers, though. A list would include Alvar Aalto (Finland), Frank Lloyd Wright (USA), and Louis Kahn (USA). I admire them as much for their architectural vision as for their ability to bring people on board into their visions.
Apart from your work, what other interests do you have, what do you like to do in your down time?
Music is a big part of life. I am also involved with endurance sports of running, swimming and cycling. It’s all for fun and fitness, and provides lots of thinking time. In April this year, I completed a marathon.
What is your own decorating style at home?
Good question. We have had three homes over the years: first a rustic mud brick house (which we built ourselves), then what we described as an “inland beach house” (which we designed and had built), and now a solid old 1930’s house in the historic center of Ballarat. Most of our possessions are solid, tasteful and have been with us for years. If a word is needed, it would be “eclectic.”