Don’t be deceived by their clean, straightforward exteriors – the works of Sydney-based architect Eva-Marie Prineas and her studio Studio Prineas are anything but simple. Whether tackling a new build, a renovation or addition, Architect Prineas has firmly established itself as a master of spatial detail and flow, where the sense of simplicity and ease inherent in the final creation is the byproduct of thoughtful design.
While we may have only recently been introduced to Eva-Marie’s works through est reader favourites like the Allen Key House and Finger Wharf Apartment, Eva-Marie has been steadily building an impressive and multi-faceted practice over the past fourteen years. We thought it was high time to sit down with Eva-Marie and hear more about her creative inspiration, design approach and future thinking – unsurprisingly, it was an insightful look into an architectural approach defined by deep curiosity and a laser attention to detail.
What first sparked your interest in architecture, and how did your career develop from there?
Being little I remember how my mother – an art teacher – would talk about architecture. She had grown up in Cairo when it was a melting pot of cultures and had a worldly appreciation of beautiful things that intrigued me. Both my parents immigrated to Australia but would return regularly to Europe. These were fantastic experiences that moulded my understanding of architecture in the way learning a second language might sharpen an understanding of one’s own. Those experiences with much older cultures certainly helped me question why things were the way they were as I grew up in the outer suburbs of Sydney.
We love your design philosophy of ‘adapting and understanding places that are already special’. Tell us a little bit more about how this drives your design approach.
As architects we are often presented with projects and places that for some reason resonate with our clients. It could be their location, aspect, a particular view or a building’s heritage. I believe there are qualities in all sites that exist – however latent – that as architects we need to find and understand before we add a further layer, and this excites me – it makes every project a new challenge.
Before founding your own practice you worked with Clive Lucas Stapleton, Environa Studio and the Superstudio – how did each of these organisations shape your approach to design and personal design practice?
Each of these added something to the architect I am today – whether it is the rigour of studying our Australian heritage buildings, an appreciation of sustainable and environmentally aware design, or – in the Superstudio, my first business – great lessons that stood me in good stead to start Architect Prineas – which is now fourteen years old.
Outside your direct experience, who have been some of your most pivotal design influences?
My Greek heritage has been a good teacher and an influence. When I return to the ancient island of Kythera I am reminded of the little we need to survive. Houses from local stone are still being built next to houses that are deteriorating – they are in various states of seemingly rising and returning to the land. Harsh winters and bleaching summers eliminate all that is unnecessary.
When I finished my degree I made a pilgrimage to Finland to study the work of architect Alvar Aalto who remains a influence in the back of my mind. His work – from Opera Houses, to houses, to furniture – have each given me valuable learnings.
Day to day I appreciate the collaboration with my husband, who is also an architect. We talk and work on our own projects together and and we have a similar sensibility. People often ask us what it’s like and if there are creative differences and we tell them that there are not – it’s honestly a wonderful experience.
What have you learned about the way we live from designing residential projects? Anything that has surprised you over the years?
I am always surprised how much my own life changes the way I view these projects. The different households – from the family unit, moving out to shared households, contracted to impossibly small spaces by myself and with my partner, the different needs of children and now looking at the real possibility of looking after parents. Our lives change and our homes adapt with that change.
What is a common misconception clients may have about your work and how do you overcome it?
Because we use a simple palette of materials, I think some clients think we must approach all of our projects in a standard way. When I take my clients to my completed projects, they understand how each has grown out of the place, both spatially, materially etc
What excites you about the future of architecture?
The future of architecture is linked to the diverse ways we might live in the future. ‘One size fits all’ is fast becoming obsolete and ‘family units’ vary more than ever – as does the way we might like to live. For our practice, this opens up so many opportunities for how our residential design responds and we are excited to explore how that translates into new models for living.
And now, a couple of Sydney questions;
Where do you live in Sydney and what do you love most about it?
Sydney’s Inner West. I love its proximity to everything and compared to other parts of Sydney, it continues to surprise us with its creativity and idealism.
Favourite places to eat:
For breakfast we love Two Chaps in Marrickville and for dinner Emma’s Snack Bar or generally anything on Enmore Road – but Stanbuli is particularly good if we’re feeling nostalgic for a European vacation.
Favourite places to drink:
When I’m at work, we’re all in and out of Bill’s Darlinghurst for take-away coffees (and sometimes lunch!) but on the weekends I prefer our sunny deck at home made straight from the La Pavoni! Sunday afternoons at the Petersham Bowling Club are also a favourite.
Favourite places to shop:
If I’m cooking a Greek feast I’ll head up to Dulwich Hill Meats for their sheftalias or something else… and I’ll duck into Lamia Super Deli in Marrickville for basically everything else! It’s old school and like being in Greece.
Weekly local rituals:
It’s a running joke that you’ll find us on a date night at either at Continental Delicatessen or Stinking Bishops, while my weekends generally consist of Saturday morning footy training for the boys at Jubilee Park, Glebe (the most beautiful oval in Sydney), coffee and grocery shopping at The Tramsheds next door, and on Sundays I always do a long run – either to Pyrmont or around the Bay Run while Pete rides with the boys then we all meet somewhere afterwards for coffee and/or breakfast