Smart Design Studio - Sydney Architects


A look at 25 years of SDS

2023 marks 25 years of Smart Design Studio. Since the inception of the studio, we have completed many projects and we are proud of them all. The scale and budgets may have varied, but our approach remains the same – architecture from the inside out. Thank you to all our clients, designers, consultants and the makers who have been part of this journey.

Click here to view a selection of projects that have helped define the image of our company.

25 years celebration

Drawing inspiration from a beloved song dressed in our favourite colour white we celebrated 25 phenomenal years at Smart Design Studio.

Below is William’s speech from this special night spent with friends, clients, and staff, both past and present.

We’re gathered here in the Utzon Room on Bennelong Point on Gadigal land. I’d like to thank the traditional owners of this special place for their custodianship of these lands and pay my respects to their elders. 2023 will be shaped by the referendum on their Voice: and I hope together we can create some positive change. I also want to acknowledge my elders and thank:

  • my mum Jeanette who’s come from country WA to be here. And to thank
  • Alex, Veronique, Jane, Kerrie, Kayla, Christina and Jim for organising tonight, and
  • John, who’s been an unbelievable support to me and SDS for the past 23 years.

When I left Australia in 92, I set out on 5 years of travelling that ended in Sydney. I was inspired by the song ‘Being Boring from 1990. I loved the Pet Shop Boys treatment and the lyrics that seemed to be speaking to me then as they do again now. In part it goes…

I came across a cache of old photos
And invitations to teenage parties
“Dress in white” one said, with quotations
From someone’s wife, a famous writer
In the 1980s,
When you’re young you find inspiration
In anyone who’s ever gone
And opened up a closing door
We were never feeling bored

(and the chorus goes)
Cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
And we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought, then thought: make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
Time would come to an end

When I left from the station
With a haversack and some trepidation
Someone said: If you’re not careful
You’ll have nothing left and nothing to care for
In the 1990s,
But I sat back and looking forward
I bolted through a closing door
I was always hoping that, looking back
You could always rely on a friend
And we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
And we were never holding back or worried that
Time would come to an end

Now I sit with different faces
In rented rooms and foreign places
All the people I was kissing
Some are here and some are missing
In the 2020s,
I never dreamt that I would get to be
The creature that I always meant to be
But I thought in spite of dreams
You’d be sitting somewhere here with me

So here you all are.  All in white: filling the room in our favourite colour. And don’t you look great! And here I am and I look at what we’ve become. Some things have been wonderful (others maybe not as good) but it’s not been boring.

Just think about how the world has changed along with us.

  • SDS started in 1998 – the same year as Google!
  • The same year as Apple released the iMac, and
  • The same year Cathy Freeman was named Australian of the Year.

There were new things for us to do and new ways to do them. New ideas and different attitudes.  We all wanted to go fast, like Cathy.

Some years before, like in the song, I’d ‘left the station with my haversack’ and got off the train in France and couldn’t believe my good luck – working in the south of France for an architect, then Norman Foster’s office in London. It was like a dream come true. I asked myself how this had all happened: a country town boy, in the big city, working in one of the best studios in the world….  I was living in those rented rooms, in foreign places (with a fair amount of kissing).

A couple of years after returning to Australia I started Smart Design Studio, because I knew that I had a voice: though I didn’t quite know how it would sound. I started SDS from my bedroom, in spite of the cautions that were like: If you’re not careful, You’ll have nothing left and nothing to care for I was totally sure that I’d figure it out and never doubted that SDS would work and that we’d survive.

And now we’re here 25 years on, on Bennelong’s land in Utzon’s House which has dressed itself up for its 50th. It really feels like we’ve become: the creature that we always meant to be

 Sometimes over these years I’d find myself wondering:

  1. How did this all come about?
  2. How did each new project grow to be bigger than the last?
  3. And all these awards?

Of course, this is what comes of working with a great team. It’s teamwork that you need to make great architecture. But it’s more than that. Our good work came about because:

  1. our clients trusted us,
  2. builders and makers engaged with us, and
  3. we put in tonnes of hard work

So I want to thank:

  1. our incredible team and everyone who has been part of that.
    you know what this takes: such patience/ dedication/ talent
    I’m very grateful for everything that you’ve done
  2. the clients who have entrusted us
    especially those who asked us to do something for our first time
    or continued to listen when a sentence began with:
    I know that youve asked for it to be this way, but.
  3. And to all or our collaborators: contractors, engineers and designers…
    I know more than anyone that you’re the ones that really do the work
    so thanks for joining in and being a part of it…

Just as in the song, I could ‘always rely on a friend or colleague’ and maybe that’s the most important realisation after 25 years that hanging together makes for good times and good work. Without those friends and colleagues it would have just been boring.

So onto the next part, confident in what we know we can do, we’re ready for bigger dreams. In a year when we acknowledge the importance of giving people a voice I want to say at SDS we’ve found ours! Would you join me now in toasting the next 25 years of great people doing the best work for truly smart clients.To our next 25 years!

Reconciliation Action Plan

We’re proud to announce the formal endorsement of our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). We began work on our Reflect RAP in mid-2022 as a commitment to helping create a better future. The journey since then has been simultaneously rewarding and challenging. We’re building our understanding of what best practice First Nations engagement looks like in project work at the same time as embracing a broader scope of personal and professional involvement in reconciliation. The dialogue and conversations we’ve started are bringing our studio team together and reshaping our practice.

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