Clinton Cole is the founder of Sydney based Architecture & building practice CplusC. They are a team of creatives and craftspeople who specialises in delivering high-quality, site specific architectural projects. CplusC’s designs are driven by a commitment to understanding their clients, their requirements and the local climatic conditions to develop unique design outcomes. Some of their projects including the Iron Maiden House has been previously featured here in our blog, so you might want to check that out and see how marvellous their works are! Enough for the intro, let’s start the Q&A!
George Takes Twelve
1. When I was growing up, I wanted to be…
I’d like to say I had some sort of master plan or childhood dream, but I’ve generally just pursued things that I enjoy and that I am good at. Where I’ve ended up is almost incidental in a way.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company?
CplusC is made up of some of the most talented people in the business of architecture and construction. In terms of what we do as a team, the scope of services we perform and the market we operate in….there is no other company in the world that does what we do that I am aware of. There are some Architects that I admire who build from time to time, typically through a separate company or for owner-Builders, but it’s part of their core business model like ours. We provide both services through one company.
The company was founded on a mixture of naivety and self-determination. I think if I hadn’t had my fingers stuck in my ears in my formative years, the white noise created by our industry, education system, insurers, and legal advisors would have drowned out the idea of our business model.
All the legal advice I received prior to starting in 1999 flew in the face of the dual service single entity model in terms of our company structure. Providing both architecture and construction services through the same company was simply unheard of and consequently perceived as high risk. In their view, the fact it hadn’t been done meant it was risky. My view of the model was that just because it hadn’t been done was more likely due to no one wanting to do it.
I worked in several firms during and after my studies before deciding to go it alone. Whether I worked for commercial, residential or heritage architecture firms what I consistently witnessed were builders blaming architects for documentation issues, architect blaming builders for time and cost issues and clients sacking one or both of them (or proceeding with neither to the construction phase in the first place and sending their unbuilt ‘masterpieces’ to the bottom drawer).
There is an enormous gap in the architecture industry and I feel like I’ve only filled a very small part of an incredible opportunity the industry could fill if it were willing to look at its current state and its future more objectively.
3. How is your studio structured? Ie. How many people work at the studio, do you outsource at all, how many projects do you take on at any one time?
We generally have an even split between office and site-based staff. We are about 20 full-time staff now and tend to have between 4-5 construction projects running at various stages and a dozen or so design projects on the drawing board.
Projects range from private clients to preparing submissions to various levels of government regarding statutory or compliance matters and regular assistance to community-based projects and the various Committees I am involved with. Everything we do is in house. Having full responsibility for construction detailing, cost management, project management, and architectural design has led to software advances that have consequentially resulted in significant business advantages over our competition, benefiting our clients and our team in the process.
4. What exciting projects (present or past) are you proud as punch about?
It sounds very boring, but I’m focused on the process. I try and make the process of delivering a project as efficient and painless as possible for all involved so it’s really a successfully delivered process that gets me excited rather than the outcomes. Good outcomes are always a consequence of great processes and this includes taking on the right projects and the right clients and knowing when to walk away regardless of the size of the opportunity.
When I hand over a project a client cares about whether the process was managed professionally and whether they feel they have received enduring value from their investment. After handover, they care about whether any issues are handled promptly and effectively. While our clients are proud of the projects we have created together I don’t think they really care that much about the images we laud over and the awards we may win after the project’s conclusion. They care about whether we have done a good job for them.
5. What’s the most treasured belonging/item in your own home?
Children are not a belonging to anyone, but they are the most treasured thing in my home (when they don’t break things, write on the walls, punch each other, etc, etc).
6. What’s the most impressive party trick you can muster?
Hanging sideways off a street sign post like a flag in the 1990s. These days I prefer to sit comfortably in a bean bag.
7. Are there any architectural trends you are excited about?
The slow disappearance of the formal dining table. I haven’t formally dined in my home since I was a kid. That being said, everyone has different needs, wants and lifestyles and while it is an Architects job to challenge a client’s pre-conceived ideas it is not cool to try and shove your architectural ideals and vision down their throats.
8. Tell us about a project that excited you but you never finished.
If it’s not finished it’s a failure!!
9. What’s your go-to routine to shake off a busy week?
I train 3 times a week to shake off working 5 days a week, so I consistently have a 2-day hangover.
10. You’ve got a week off, where are you going?
My wife is Fijian-German and Fiji is closer.
11. Tell us about your best strategy for those dreaded uninspired moments. What gets you out of slumpville and back climbing the creative pinnacle?
Years ago, I worked on a ‘fear of failure’ basis but I have learned that success is a mindset and there is always something good around the corner of life. The difficult part is learning how to ride out the slumps without having a meltdown and my wife has been my rock in this regard.
12. Favourite architectural style from a bygone era?
In terms of Architects from the past, I have always admired the work of Correa, Bawa, and Aalto but I don’t think we’ve ever seen an era where such incredibly diverse, complex and game-changing architecture has been produced like the period we are in now. It is excessive at times, but it captures the human spirit and our capacity as creative thinkers. Referring to architecture as a style is unhelpful in terms of explaining to the public what our value and the value of good architecture can be. In the words of Amale Andraos “Architecture is a strange field where we’re constantly asked to demonstrate over and over why design matters, to everyone, all the time. It’s exhausting.”
Meet the Architect Radio
“Did you say top 10 or top 20?” Playlist
“Lullabies, look in your eyes
Run around the same old town
Doesn’t mean that much to me
To mean that much to you”
Curious what looks good in the eyes of an architect + builder? Here are his top picks from Hunting for George.