An Interview With A WOLF Architect
In the beginning, it was all about telling stories through drawing. I grew up in Thailand in the 1970s as a developing city with minimal by comparison to today in entertainment. Drawing was my imaginative way to play and starve away boredom. At the age of seven, I met my first architect, hired by my father who was a property developer. The artistic flair of this man meant he could seemingly draw anything and I pestered him continually to demonstrate his skills. From tanks to tigers, I believed that an architect had the ability to draw anything conceivable and that has sparked my inspiration to create.
An elaborate space battle
Maturity led me to appreciate the level of precision and accuracy required by architects. There was a tool for everything in the world of hand-drawn designs! So by the age of 10, I completed homework with 0.1mm Rotring drafting pens. It became my mission to be an architect. Throughout my high school years, I focused and excelled at any subject with a design or drawing component. In my spare time, I created my own projects and challenges that often kept me up all night. By the time I was ready to enter University I was highly skilled and competent.
The University of Melbourne was my first choice, but they didn’t recognize my Bangkok High School qualifications and actually rejected my application. Despite being an Australian, my secondary schooling was convoluted and challenging to standardise in a pre-internet era. Not to be disregarded, I simply showed up knocking on faculty doors requesting to showcase my work. By some stroke of luck, I was granted an interview with Dr Martin Fowler and Dr Jeffrey Turnbull (Head of architecture at that time). I presented a design I did when I was 16, surpassed their expectations for even a graduate, and an exception was made by interview, to grant me access to my dream. That year there were only 92 places for architecture and all 92 were filled. Dr Jeffrey Turnbull created a 93rd spot and I will always be very grateful for that.
The original faculty of architecture was in this 1964 structure, a far cry from today’s award-winning statement piece
A young Mr Wolf in first-year architecture
I felt very much at home and relieved to finally be where I wanted to be. Not an architect yet, but well on my way. Most of the course felt comfortable to me, so it was normal for me to extend the brief to be more challenging. When asked to do black and white I chose colour, when asked to use pencil I chose pen. Sometimes that frustrated my teachers but I was also frustrated because I was highly skilled and ready for more. My only contemporaries in my view were the master students which I often looked towards for inspiration.
At University I soon realized that architecture was not just about design and all the fascinating drawing techniques and equipment. Learning about construction, structure and all the science was absolutely necessary but not as fun. By the time I was in 3rd year I was itchy to spread my wings in the real world and landed an internship at NFA, now known as FK architects. It was another case of knocking on doors and asking for a place to be made. Fate agreed, and Karl Fender was my mentor. We worked out of a converted warehouse that was exquisitely detailed, I began to really appreciate the quality of space and interior design. An Architect was more than someone who could draw, and design buildings, I saw the ability and intent of my architecture to create spaces that affected our experiences.
I left NFA around 1993, distracted by Ballroom dancing and for several years put architecture on pilot light to pursue my ambition to be a World Champion. This is really a whole other chapter of youth, artistic endeavours in graphic design, painting and property development. None of which met my expectations, so ultimately I returned to the University of Melbourne and completed my Master with First Class Honors. After which I completed architecture registration to operate Wolf Architects.
A professional Dance competitor and instructor, Taras was the undefeated South East Asian Champion and designed this school in 1997 as a minimalistic gallery for dance.
Talented architects in tiny spaces, from humble beginnings the practice has blossomed
As a newly registered architect with a young practice, job scope was limited. The opportunity to create outstanding buildings was not paramount, and I focused on how my work had direct impact on living. From being practical to beautiful it all affected how we live and I think I started to understand for the first time how much Architecture was about People. My intention for being an architect, grew from individual survival, to incorporating positive impact on other lives.
WOLF Architects has expanded significantly over the years and I see it continuing as a leader in the industry and brand recognized for excellence. The practice is a harmonious eco-system of positive staff and clients with a respect and responsibility to the environment. As our team and body of works expands, I’m able to see a broader view of what WOLF Architects can mean. My intention for being an architect today has moved towards mentoring and inspiring others to find excellence within themselves.
Contemplation for why we do what we do is a crucial component of a fulfilled life. One’s reason does not have to be absolute or perfect, but it must be clear. The choice to be an architect for many may be just a stepping stone, but understanding this invites passion and commitment which in my experience leads to whatever destiny has in mind. In my case, I did not take the straight, obvious or easy path, but I chose with reason and that gave me the fire and passion to take every step with full conviction. I didn’t become the dance champion of the World but that’s ok, because it all still contributed towards being a better architect, which was what Destiny had in mind all along.
Catering to the World from a beautiful studio in Malvern East.