In Conversation | Eastop Architects

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    Based in Melbourne’s north-side suburb of Fitzroy, Eastop Architects are a small studio with a strong presence in the city’s design scene. Undertaking a mix of urban and coastal homes, the studio’s work is centred on the dialogue between the built and the natural – the former being marked by clear compositional forms, robust material palettes and an emphasis on natural light. In this one-on-one interview with Eastop Architects founder Liam Eastop, we break down his pragmatic yet emotional approach to architecture that sees buildings as permanent fixtures within the landscape.

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    Blairgowrie House by Eastop Architects

    Outside of your own practice, how does design have an influence on you?

    Liam Eastop: I love going to new cities and experiencing design. I also love going to small, quiet towns with ruins; I love architecture with history. 

    More recently, I’ve enjoyed seeing design through the lens of my 15-month-old son. My partner and I have taken him to a few galleries and exhibitions recently, as well as a few remote places where there are different buildings to look at, and I love watching his reaction to the things he sees. He’s not even talking yet, but observing the changes in his body language is wonderful.

    The use of concrete is a recurring theme in your recent work. Why is this material often the right choice in your projects?

    Liam Eastop: I like the idea that buildings should remain – that they should be permanent. That’s what attracts me to concrete the most – its permanence. It encourages clients to consider the building as a permanent fixture within the landscape. And if the building falls apart, like some of the ruins that you find in Europe, there will still be this skeleton remaining. I like the potential ageing process of the material. It’s also a very versatile material; it can take a lot of different forms and finishes.

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    Blairgowrie House by Eastop Architects

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    Blairgowrie House by Eastop Architects

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    Blairgowrie House by Eastop Architects

    How do you utilise natural light in your buildings?

    Liam Eastop: I like the idea of filtering light – seeing how it can move through materials. This often entails layering solid and transparent materials and seeing how they interact differently with light. You can also employ nature; for example, a tree in a courtyard can soften light as it enters a home. I like buildings to be slightly harsh and confronting, but there needs to be moments of softness, and that’s where light and the landscape come in.

    In each of your projects, the landscape is an indispensable part of the architecture. How do you go about bringing the outside in?

    Liam Eastop: I consider designing to be a spatial exercise. I like to play around with both inside and outside space, testing where the two can become interchangeable. This can be about framing the landscape – a courtyard is a good way to do that – and most of our projects utilise a courtyard. 

    I’m interested in how landscapes can be intercepted. Using solid materials like concrete is a way to embed buildings into their site. The two most recent projects we’ve done on the Mornington Peninsula push themselves into the hill they’re located on, so they become carved into the landscape. I often draw inspiration from land artists like Michael Heizer for this kind of work.

    You’ve designed several residential projects on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula; how does the topography of the region influence your design approach?

    Liam Eastop: I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula, so I have always had a strong affinity with it. I love the way the wind sculpts the sand, where the buildings touch the ground; I love the sense of openness. Projects on the peninsula are incredibly varied; you’ve got some that are nestled in the coastal suburbia, and you’ve got others that are more remote and secluded. I tend to design houses that are intimate, whether that means they’re on a remote site or protected from the street. I try to ignore whatever’s going on next door or the neighbouring site and instead try to move with the topography. Being too intrusive on the site creates a bad relationship with the landscape. We aim to maintain what’s already there and reinstate what used to be there.

    What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to?

    Liam Eastop: We’re currently working on our first project in New South Wales. It’s a family house on a sloping site with some unique floating elements, which has been a really exciting challenge for us. We’re also looking at doing some larger scale projects, including some multi-residential and commercial, which is an exciting step to be taking as a practice.

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    Chenier by Eastop Architects

    I like the idea that buildings should remain – that they should be permanent.”


    – Liam Eastop

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    Blairgowrie House by Eastop Architects

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    Chenier by Eastop Architects

    Design Dissected:

    Where we get an architect or designer’s take on broader topics, themes or events currently surfacing in the design world.

    In the age of social media, how do you, as an architect, stay true to your values and approach while distilling inspiration?

    Liam Eastop: It would’ve been easier to be an architect pre-internet because there was more of an opportunity to educate clients. Social media can often feed clients ideas that are infeasible for their specific project and its unique site constraints. It’s difficult for us to filter what we see, but it’s even more difficult to manage what the client is exposed to. 

    I ask clients not to show any references they’ve found online. We don’t want to see a Pinterest board. The moment a client starts sending us reference images, we start worrying because it implies they don’t fully trust us. We want to send them stuff to be inspired by, not the other way around.

    Rapid Fire:

    Somewhere that inspires you? An old village

    Someone that inspires you? Michael Heizer

    Favourite gallery space?Dia Beacon

    Favourite three materials to work with? Glass, steel and solid construction

    Something you want to see more of this year in design? More competitions

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    Eastbourne by Eastop Architects

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    Eastbourne by Eastop Architects

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