As an avid lover of architecture from a young age, Chris Schofield from Studio Schofield was always destined to become a professional architect. Passionate about the use of timber veneer from an architectural design perspective, Schofield shares his experiences in the architecture industry and explains why architects like designing and working with timber veneer.
What do you love about being an architect?
For me, the practice of architecture offers such a wide range of experiences on a regular basis. Working with new sets of clients, working with buildings, old and new, and having the ability to influence the spaces that we all use on a daily basis. Architecture is also a profession that encourages lifelong education and allows (you) to draw on a rich variety of experiences and particularities.
Why did you become one, what was your journey?
When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I realised I probably wasn’t going to be tall enough to play basketball professionally, and I knew at that moment I wanted to be an architect. My grandfather was an architect in the United States, and had studied under architectural royalty (Mies van der Rohe, Gropius) at IIT in Chicago. Spending time in my grandparents’ house growing up had a profound impact on me, and I’ve worked towards architecture for quite some time. I attended QUT when they offered a part-time study load that allowed for employment throughout the course, so I’ve been lucky enough to work inside the profession since my first year of university.
What trends do you see in architecture at the moment?
In residential design, there is a resurgence of rich, colourful natural materials – natural stones, paired with coloured paints and powdercoats, and expressing different metal finishes in their raw state. Parametric design is another emerging trend as a result of digital design tools and rapid-prototyping tools, resulting in complex structures that can be made of otherwise simple pieces.
Do you have particular materials that you like to use in your designs and projects?
I like to approach each project with a fresh slate and respond to the site, the setting, the existing spaces and the personalities of the clients. Personally, I am interested in finding creative new uses of natural materials, or altering them in unusual ways, especially if they are locally made or manufactured. The wealth of colour and texture in natural materials never ceases to amaze me.
What is it about timber veneer that draws you to using it in your projects?
Timber veneer has great versatility that enables use of a species that might be difficult to acquire or a grain pattern that is not possible or practical to achieve in solid timber. Having the possibilities to affordably use a truly natural product in joinery and designs that would be very costly or difficult to achieve in solid timber.
What are the benefits of working with timber veneer?
In addition to the vast range of species available to use, the benefits of veneer allow for more ambitious designs within reasonable budgets, which then opens up possibilities of using stronger, bolder timbers. Ensuring a closely-matched grain pattern is another key benefit of using veneers as well.
Do you have a favourite project that features timber veneer? If so, what makes it so special?
My favourite project is almost always the one that is on the drawing board, coming up next. Recently I’ve worked on a very challenging apartment renovation with some troublesome columns placed at 45-degree angles in irregular places. The solution was to insert a concealed triangular pantry, completely wrapped in an Oak veneer, allowing for a more open kitchen and lounge layout that overlooks the Brisbane River.