MEMBER PROFILE: REGIONAL PRACTICE WITH MOLONEY ARCHITECTS
Mick and Jules Moloney met at university; an architecture school love-story, their relationship forged over all-nighters in the studio. Continuing a grand history of successful husband-and-wife teams in architecture, they went on to co-found Moloney Architects in 2007.
The decision to start their own practice came from a competition for the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial in Canberra. Four entries, including their own, were shortlisted and a cash prize awarded to further develop their design for the next round. They realised this was their opportunity to take the leap and start their own practice.
Sometimes Mick feels like it would have been wise to work for longer before going out on their own. 'It can be a bit of a bubble,' he explains, being a husband and wife team with the same level of professional experience. It meant they sometimes lacked the perspective to know when a project being cancelled or a challenge onsite was a catastrophe, or a mere bump in the road. 'If we'd teamed up with a 40-year-old architect or worked for longer,' there would be the experience to know otherwise, 'but it's also been fun to work it out ourselves.'
The practice is based in Ballarat, yet its sphere of influence stretches much farther, with built work dotted around Victoria, from Hamilton to Red Hill, Bendigo to the Surf Coast. Jules is originally from Ballarat and the decision to move back has been a wise one, offering them a 'lower cost of living, lots of space and a lower-maintenance' lifestyle than they would have experienced if they'd stayed in Melbourne. It means more time with the family and less stress. In fact, since they made the move, several friends have joined them in moving to Ballarat for their own tree change!
The benefits of regional practice extend beyond the relaxed lifestyle, though. Working in regional areas means you're often 'exposed to opportunities you may not be exposed to in the city'. For Mick and Jules, this meant the chance to design a Trots Club upgrade early on in their solo career thanks to some local connections, giving them the chance to broaden their experience beyond residential work.
Working in regional practice has its fair share of challenges, too. A big one, 'there's a perception that prices are lower in regional areas', Mick explains, but, 'just because the land value is lower doesn't translate to the constructions costs being lower as well.' This means it's even more important to ensure the construction budget remains on track. They work closely with local builders to 'sanity check' their designs and control costs while on larger projects quantity surveyors provide an all-important barometer. A handy side-effect of this: clients who engage an architect in regional areas often share a deep love of their site and a commitment to good design.
The homes that Moloney Architects have designed epitomise this celebration of site and landscape. Two Halves House, for example, takes the almost universal symbol of 'house', splits it down the middle and separates it into two seperate pavilions: one for sleeping and one for living. This achieves a more climate-appropriate and site-responsive design, opening all rooms to natural light, breezes and the landscape. Similarly, Kyneton House balances solid and void to take in spectacular views of parkland to the south, while simultaneously creating a sheltered north-facing courtyard without sacrificing privacy from the public park.
A recent project, Daylesford 1863, treats the historic community and neighbouring church as the site and demonstrates the practice's skilful ability to balance the needs of modern living with built heritage. With minimal intervention to the heritage home, their contemporary addition creates a courtyard which reorients the home around a new sunny courtyard, bringing natural light into the new living areas and framing views of the neighbouring church.
Moloney Architects has been delivering great architecture to regional Victoria for over a decade and Mick and Jules wouldn't trade it for a city-based practice any day. Perhaps with the exception of getting married, going into practice together, and having three wonderful children, Ballarat has been the best move they've ever made.