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Growing up in Canberra, Steven Cetrtek spent his school holidays hanging out on building sites with his brickie dad.
But while his father was focussed on the uniformity and strength of each wall he built, Steven’s head was in the clouds. He was thinking about angles, aspect and aesthetics.
It came as no surprise to his family that he went on to complete honours in Architecture at the University of Canberra and now runs his own firm Thursday Architecture. His work has received a number of industry accolades including the Malcom Moir Heather Sutherland award for residential architecture and Light In Architecture, People’s Choice for Housing—all by the Institute of Architects.
You may be wondering about the choice of name. Well, it’s the English translation of Cetrtek. Steven used to get called Steven Thursday by family and friends. So when thinking of his business he didn’t want to do what every other architect does and call himself Cetrtek Architecture. Thursday had impact and was a little unexpected – just like his designs.
Steven’s career began in the apartment and hotel space after working for a firm in London and a brief stint in Melbourne to gain experience. But when his dad asked him to design a dual occupancy for his own home, he discovered the satisfaction of creative control and decided to take on more private work. Now he channels his creative energies into his own firm, Thursday Architecture, as it builds a reputation for bespoke and distinctive design and highly-personalised service.
“I explore ideas until I find something that works contextually and then it’s an evolutionary process. Every project is different, and I believe that it’s a result that comes from understanding the site opportunities, sustainable design, and most importantly, the client brief.”
Steven draws inspiration from around the world but has a passion for Australian design coming out of young firms such as Volks and Peters, Make Architecture Studio, March Studio, and Tribe in Sydney and Melbourne.
He always starts with a good plan that arranges the spaces in an ordered way to maximise northern orientation, natural light and connection to external spaces.
“This is usually done by a freehand sketch which gets the right side of my brain working. I’ll take a break from the process and return a few days later to review, develop, (or scrap!) ideas.”
Then he presents to the client for feedback and once they settle on the preferred plan, Steven gets out the technical (left) side of his brain to develop it further. Using 3D software, he can create images of the future space from both inside and outside.
“This really helps the client understand what their project looks like and that’s when the excitement starts to happen.”
In Canberra, Steven constantly has to balance work between designing renovations and knock-down rebuilds.
“Renovations tend to present a lot of challenges and constraints—the biggest question the client needs to ask themselves is, ‘what are the qualities of this home that are worth keeping rather than replacing?’
“In a current design I’m working on in the inner south we are knocking down a house with Canberra red bricks. Some of these are being salvaged to be used in the new home as a bit of nod to the site’s past. At university we talked about ‘truth in materials’ and this is fundamental. The material selection—whether it’s masonry, timber or metal—should be simple, robust and celebrated.”
Admitting that he usually becomes so immersed in each project that ideas ping into his head at random times and he is always scrabbling for a pen and paper, Steven estimates it takes between one to three months to complete the design stage.
That can lead to one of the more challenging parts of the job—meeting the demands of local authorities with their planning rules and managing builders when it comes to construction. “The grand vision sometimes gets battered when it goes through these processes,” says Steven.
But the best part of the process is when the building is completed.
“I love walking through the threshold of something I have designed. That thrill just never gets old”.
This includes unlocking the door to his own home—Salo House, a Ken Oliphant 1950’s original design that Steven has painstakingly updated into a luxe family home, while maintaining the integrity of Oliphant’s vision.
Similarly, one of Steven’s recent clients Damon Smith said he loved coming home to his Deakin “dream home” which was designed by Steven and completed last year.
Somewhat bizarrely, Damon, who is GEOCON’s General Manager of Construction, said he had been frustrated in trying to find an architect who could “tie modern architecture with a mix of residential and commercial styles all the while maintaining a level of buildability.”
Then he heard about Steven.
“I find his design sharp and sexy, yet buildable and cost-effective.”
Damon’s family home is bold and boxy, commanding three levels and featuring a dramatic use of different materials on the façade with feature elements.
“We provided a simple brief in terms of basic layout and the number of room and bathrooms and let Steven weave his magic. He provided a few initial options and the design just flowed from there.”
The house has to be seen to be believed, but Damon admits the large panel off the kitchen which conceals an underground entertainment space (read: man cave) which contains its own bar, cinema and even has a meat curing room, is a favourite feature.
With interior design assistance from Department of Design, Steven designed the ultimate dream home for his clients.
The highest recommendation Damon can give is that the two are firm friends to this day.
“As a builder, I’m not supposed to see eye to eye with architects! But Steven’s approach to the bigger picture—not just the architecture—is what sets him apart from the rest.”
Thursday Architecture can be found at thursdayarchitecture.com.au.
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