James Russell Architect


The tropics and sub-tropics allow us a great freedom in architecture that is not possible in many parts of the world. Here, architecture can be reduced to a minimal shelter which allows us to enjoy and experience our environment. A shelter can be as simple as a roof to shield the summer sun or a wall to protect from winter winds. The experiences derived from a building which allows you to interact with the environment, outweigh the occasional discomforts that may occur by not having “complete control” of the environment. We encourage the occupant to interact with the environment and surrounding neighborhood. This is controlled through building orientation, plan and section, insulation and adjustable skins, rather than air-conditioning. There is an awareness of climate that comes from this approach and a heightened experience and appreciation of our surroundings. Skins can be changed to suit conditions. The skins are often low tech and require the occupant to adjust them manually. Mechanical means of controlling the climate are kept to a minimum. Often our projects have a single “retreat space” that can be used on rare occasions when the building struggles with a hot summer day or a winter night. Our office, for example, is a small verandah without the Victorian core. We live and work in this space: a space with shutters and awnings to the perimeter and wrapped by a weatherproof curtain around the hole to the sky. The Brookes Street office and home were test projects for minimal shelter. Projects in the inner suburbs or bush make up most of our work, but it is the suburbs that can’t be ignored. We have actively pursued projects in the suburbs, like Sanctuary Place House and Bisley Place House. Both were on new estates and question the suburban brick and tile.


James Russell Architect is a design based practice using traditional pen on paper and cardboard models through early stages of design. When design has calmed we move to 3D modeling and cut all drawings from this. The drawings often include shop drawings for steel or concrete. By keeping drawings in house we control detail rather than becoming the reviewer. We are a group of design professionals that build. Architect, students, landscape architect and engineer. We use building as a tool for investigating and developing our knowledge of a material and the way we put it together. We make fittings for most of our projects (lights etc.) and in some instances build the whole project. Architecture is not all behind a desk, we practice two to three days a week and build the rest of the time. The site is full of banter, no radio. We explore architecture through making. Our hands will always get dirty and unresolved details are discussed and drawn before making.
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Working here is like an apprenticeship; we work closely and learn actively. Loch, Lucas and Andy all continue to build and have been registered as builders since graduating from architecture.