Who are you?
I am an architect, teacher, writer, husband and father. I studied architecture at Melbourne University, then worked for Perkins Architects for a few years before heading off to live in Milan and travel the world. I founded Mihaly Slocombe with my wife, Erica Slocombe, in 2010 upon our return from Milan. It was an enormous leap of faith, as we started our family in the same year. I count surviving the eight years since of child-induced sleeplessness as one of my greatest achievements! Balancing work and parenting has encouraged Erica and I to closely examine the practice model of Mihaly Slocombe. We both work part time in order to balance work and family, and have deliberately located the studio close to home, childcare and school.
What do you do?
At Mihaly Slocombe I work mostly on houses, with a smattering of commercial projects here and there. I love the intimate connection we create with our residential clients and sharing their architectural journey with them. I also enjoy dabbling in other project types, and the cut and thrust of more complex stakeholder arrangements. I think the best part about being an architect and a small business owner is the unpredictability of my work – no two days, or even two hours are the same.
I was stoked at last year’s ArchiTeam Awards when we were shortlisted for our Joyful House project and took home a commendation for Barre Body. We also won a commendation for Chamfer House at the AIA Awards in 2016, and were shortlisted in the Houses Awards for Kids Pod in 2015. Our work has been widely published here in Australia and abroad. It was fun to watch Joyful House, Chamfer House and Kids Pod spark viral cascades of publications online, eventually appearing in as far flung places as Germany, Mexico, Turkey and Sweden.
I believe passionately in my social responsibility to our team at Mihaly Slocombe, and the broader architecture profession. With Erica, I have developed an inclusive workplace that achieves design excellence through open conversation and a collaborative design methodology. I am committed to gender parity, civilised working hours and a family-like working environment.
In addition to practice, I teach in various capacities at Melbourne University and RMIT. This includes tutoring and lecturing in design, construction and architecture practice. I write a blog, Panfilo, named after the street where Erica and I lived in Milan. Over the past eight years, I’ve written more than 300 short form essays on the culture, practice and business of architecture. And most recently, I threw my remaining shreds of sound judgement out the window and became a director at ArchiTeam!
What has been your most scary/courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Starting Mihaly Slocombe with Erica was a big deal for us. But it had always been our plan to run a studio together, so it felt like a natural next step in our architectural careers… So that’s not it. I mustered up the courage to run a marathon a few years ago, which was mentally gruelling and physically excruciating, but it wasn’t nearly as scary as proposing to Erica. Despite having been together for nine years prior, I have never been more nervous in my life!
Who do you admire and why?
As an architect, I admire the late, great Robin Boyd. He was the ultimate 20th Century Renaissance Man: he designed, he wrote, he taught, he performed, he advocated, he facilitated. I’m deeply inspired by this multi-skilled vision of what an architect can be, and would love to leave even a fraction of Boyd’s legacy.
As a creative business owner, I admire the endless energy of Pixar, and the way in which its leaders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull have managed to craft and sustain a culture of creative excellence. Perhaps even more impressive is that they’ve done this without succumbing to the familiar pitfalls that have hit organisations like Kodak, Nokia or even Disney. I feel I have a lot to learn from their successful merger of artistry and business.
What is it about ArchiTeam that made you want to get involved?
Mihaly Slocombe joined ArchiTeam in 2016, and I was immediately impressed by how agile and proactive it is. It just gets out there and gets stuff done, a rare and precious attitude for a membership organisation. I got more actively involved almost without planning to, and as the saying goes, as a result of one small step after another. My first step was responding to Zoë Geyer’s callout in late 2016 for people to volunteer for an advocacy working group, and my second was working with her and Fooi-Ling Khoo on the inaugural 2017 season of the Naked Architect. I’m happy to say that these two experiences reinforced my initial impression of ArchiTeam. When I was (gently) encouraged to put my hand up to become a director, I took my third step and did so enthusiastically.