Phoenix Takes 5 With…Matt Goodman of MGAO
As part of Phoenix Tapware’s interview series with key designers, architects, builders and plumbers, we take five minutes with Matt Goodman, founder of the eponymously named Matt Goodman Architecture Office, to chat about his career, inspiration and current design trends.
How did you get started in Architecture?
Architecture and becoming an architect was never something I thought about when I was young. My father was a concreter who ran his own business and the only thing I knew was that I eventually wanted to work for myself.
I was always into drawing and designing, yet it wasn’t until my early 20’s that my (now) mother in law suggested I look into studying architecture.
I applied, missed out, and studied drafting for a year before finally getting accepted into an architecture degree course the following year. The day I started studying I knew I had found my calling.
I started working for Wood Marsh during my second year of uni and I completed a master’s degree while working full time. I started the architect registration process a year (almost to the day) after completing my degree, I passed the registration, became an architect and started MGAO.
This process started 15 years ago; I literally can’t think of anything I could enjoy doing more.
Helenslea Road Project by MGAO featuring Vivid Slimline Sink Mixer Gooseneck
What does a typical day look like for you?
-The morning coffee run with my wife and dog is a must.
-Try as hard as I can to work through the ‘to do list’ before the phone starts ringing and the list gets bigger!
-If I am lucky, a site visit or two to see our projects coming to life.
-Think about designs and focus on ideas in the afternoon once the builders have knocked off and the phone has stopped ringing.
-Finish up the day by writing tomorrows to do list and doing some of the design work, sketches, 3D renders.
-Bed… too late again.
What are your favourite types of projects to work on?
I love working on projects of all scales and typologies from garden sheds to commercial office buildings – anything with an interesting brief and a committed and open-minded client.
My favourite type of project would have to be the holiday home/weekender/ retreat. I love the way that these types of projects accommodate a paired back version of life, momentarily free from clutter, TV, news, etc. These projects are even more enjoyable on a site with a view toward an ocean or native landscape of some sort. I’d love to one day design a hotel, or series of cabins in a remote location somewhere.
Helenslea Road Project by MGAO featuring Vivid Slimline Wall Basin Outlet Curved and Vivid Slimline Up Wall Mixer
What do you find to be most rewarding about being an architect?
Nothing beats the moment when the project finally shifts from being considered a construction site and becomes the client’s new home! I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with my clients during their design process and get to share in their journey.
What currently inspires you and your work?
I am inspired by my surroundings and I find endless inspiration in the Australian landscape (city, coast and country). There are hundreds of years’ worth of Australian built history, and tens of thousands of years’ worth of local indigenous history to draw inspiration from.
My work is inspired in the first instance by local examples of vernacular architecture – buildings from fibro beach shacks to grand rows of terrace houses; more often than not designed without the involvement of an architect.
I find working with existing conditions, reference, and site context far more interesting than working purely towards finding a new form.
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on projects in some beautiful locations, by the coast and in the city. I am also honoured to work on the land of the various traditional landowners in the locations in which I practice.
What is your favourite project to date that you’ve worked on?
Less a single project and more a series of projects. I started my office with three pro bono projects in Wye River, Victoria, helping local residents who lost their homes in the 2015 Christmas bushfires with their rebuild process. The first was completed in 2018, the second in 2019 and the third project was recently completed in early November. I started these projects with the desire to help others, yet looking back, I had no idea how much I would actually gain from the process. I learnt so much during the four years working on these three houses; knowledge and experience that is now invaluable to my practice and approach to architecture.
What are the greatest or most important lessons you have learned along the way in your career?
Opportunities come from opportunities.
Say yes to everything, no matter how small or insignificant the task. I can trace back some of my largest projects, biggest clients and greatest achievements to small tasks I agreed to do and decisions I had made long before. Had I decided to say no instead of yes way back when, I may still be stuck where I once was.
Follow you gut.
When I started my office, I had no work, but an extremely strong desire to build an office. I have done a number of random things, that on paper may sound ridiculous, and looking back many were. However, a number of these decisions eventually opened doors, lead to projects, and the opportunity to develop my own approach to architecture.
You can’t fake passion.
Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
This is a well-known quote: one which I agree with wholeheartedly. I don’t see architecture as an occupation, it’s my vocation. I am somehow lucky enough to make a living doing what I love. This passion comes out in everything I do, and I believe that if you are passionate about what you do, others pick up on this passion, and it will eventually lead to more opportunities. Find your passion and follow it until the end.
Vivid Shower Arm and Rose, Vivid Slimline Wall Basin Outlet Curved and Vivid Slimline Up Wall/Shower Mixer
What kinds of trends are you seeing in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries?
I try not to focus too much on trends; by their very essence, a trend can only be short lived, whereas a client requires a house to enjoy for many years. I strongly believe every architect or designer’s first focus should be for a certain timeless quality – ensuring the client will love their house long after any trend has passed.
This is why I really love the Phoenix Slimline Vivid range, the whole range is simple, restrained and extremely well detailed.
From the trends I have noticed, block colours seem to be overtaking full terrazzo in bathrooms. Larger dedicated laundries and drying rooms seem to be coming far more common, and finally a shift away from the boring ‘three pendant lights over the island bench’ in kitchens!
Many of the recent projects that I have seen, which have remained in my thoughts, all share a certain simplicity. My advice to anyone would be to design with restraint. Remember that designing your own kitchen, bathroom or laundry isn’t a room reveal – a good design should simply form the background to your family life and more often than not, a simply designed space will inevitably feel timeless.
Photography by Ben Hosking