With a fresh approach to design and a commitment to sustainability principles, Breathe Architecture is the 2012 IDEA Designer of the Year. The small, dynamic practice has a consistently masterful approach that makes them worthy of recognition.
When Jeremy McLeod named his practice Breathe in 2001, it was in reference to a pledge he had made to himself: every space must have an openable window. He had been working on apartment towers for the firm Nation Fender Katsalidis (NFK, now Fender Katsalidis) where he learnt that windows above the thirtieth floor have to be sealed shut to cope with wind pressure. He had been very keen to work at NFK, not for tall building design but because, for years, he had been enthralled by Nonda Katsalidis’ beach house at St Andrews, Victoria, built in 1991.
Breathe Architecture started with a small renovation, and for years “you could never see [our work] unless you were standing on the roof of your car in the back lanes of Brunswick, North Melbourne or Fitzroy,” says McLeod. That changed in 2009 after he designed a home for the owner of a cafe. The cafe owner asked them to help with his new cafe, St Ali in South Melbourne, then Brother Bubba Budan cafe in the CBD, followed by Seven Seeds cafe in Carlton.
Suddenly Breathe Architecture’s work was in the public domain and more commissions followed. The office has grown, but hasn’t yet encountered the challenge of the 30th floor. Jobs range in scale from residential additions, to commercial interiors, to small apartment buildings like The Commons in Brunswick, which recently commenced construction. “Breathe was always meant to be about architecture for everybody,” he says. “Our clients are like you and me – they’re not loaded, and they’re ok if they have to put a jumper on in winter.” Working with limited budgets, and with high sustainability principles, has lead to a ‘reductionist’ methodology. “Less building stuff equates to more floor space,” McLeod says.
– Excerpt from profile by Toby Horrocks