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May 2, 2017
The Boat Builder

Chasing Perfection: Pedrazzini Wooden Boats

It was more than 100 years ago when Swisse boat builder, Augusto Pedrazzini started crafting boats by hand on the shores of Lake Zurich.

Today, run by his great grandson, Augusto's incredible search for perfection continues - the boat company started in his name, and still make every boat by hand, with some of the rarest mahogany in the world. It takes more than 9 months for the Pedrazzini crew to finish one of the small masterpieces.

Over the course of a century, they've become one of the most sought after and recognised boat building brands in the world - a testament to the endless search for perfection, for embracing repetition and improvement, and always staying true to your craft.

Photos by The Brander.

January 31, 2017
Climbs of Imagination #2

Every week we look through magazines and architecture websites to inspire our own design.

This week, we found these...

January 23, 2017
Featherstone House

After the second World War ended, something remarkable happened in Australia. As migrants from Europe flooded into Melbourne and Sydney, we were introduced to European tradesmen with craft and skill that had never been seen before on our shores. The result was Australian Mid-Century Modernism, a unique style of architecture that had a more profound affect on Australian city suburbs that any other style of architecture.

Between the 1950's and 1970's, architects like Robin Boyd, Neil McGlashan, and Harry Seidler designed simple homes based on simplicity and practicality. During the time, Robin Boyd became Australia's most famous Modernist architect, designing homes through the Melbourne suburbs that are still renowned today, including the Boyd House, the Featherstone House, and the Black Dolphin Motel.

As a response to the design of Boyd and Seidler, Australian furniture design took on a new and wonderfully inspired form. Grant Featherstone, Douglas Snelling, and Fred Lowen, together with furniture companies like Fler and Aristoc, brought out timeless designs that would punctuate the living spaces of homes from the modernist architects.

We think the results are something to behold. In the space of little more than a decade, the Australian architectural identity was forever shifted.

Our favourite home of the time is, perhaps, the Featherstone House by Robin Boyd. It was designed by Robin Boyd for furniture designers Grant and Mary Featherstone, in Ivanhoe, Melbourne.

December 2, 2016
Wabi Sabi

You're not perfect. There are blemishes on your skin, scars and marks and bruises. The natural world certainly isn't perfect. Every tree bares the marks of the seasons and the elements - curved and best and scarred in ways that make it unique.

But these imperfections are the good stuff. The character, the detail, the personality. It's often the imperfections in people and architecture that we find most attractive. We like that there is something hidden underneath or rough on the surface.

Architecture can embrace this sentiment, too. At its best, the traditional Japanese style of crafting - Wabi Sabi - celebrates imperfections in materials and enhances everyday life by stripping back to a simple aesthetic and focusing on the essential elements. Once the essentials are at the centre, it brings the materials and the architecture into sharper focus. In Japanese design, often, it's not about making things perfect.

When you design your home, consider the natural knots and marks in materials, the way they age and crack and break and bend over time. It's these details that give your home a spirit and an energy.

Sometimes it just has to be honest, not perfect.

 

The Japanese view of life embraced a simple aesthetic that grew stronger as inessentials were eliminated and trimmed away - Tadao Ando, Architect.

November 28, 2016
Climbs of Imagination #1

We don't just craft and design stairs.

We scour architecture books and magazines for the most considered designs in the world. Every month we put them together and make a mood board of our most highly regarded Climbs of Imagination.

This month we dedicated our first Climbs of Imagination post to the curvaceous, deliberate detail of Art Deco architecture.

November 23, 2016
Brutalism

Brutalism is, perhaps, the most maligned school of architecture in the world. It rose to prominence throughout Europe, America, and even Australia in the post war period between 1950 and 1970, as a response to the decorative periods of architecture at the beginning of the century, like Art Deco in the 1930's, where architects were able to express themselves with intricate details and ornate finishes.

But when the end of the war came and there was a new world to be built, Modernist architecture took full flight. In Australia, the work of Robin Boyd and Harry Siedler became hugely influential in the suburbs. Architects would create buildings that turned a buildings forgotten form into architectural statements. Clean lines, manicured lawns, and split level homes followed.

In the commercial sector, at least, there was a significant swing towards brutalism after 1960. Brutalist buildings were incredibly popular on large scale projects. Architects would design buildings that were rugged and raw in form, they'd feature mountainous slabs of concrete, bold forms, and repetition.

In Australia, some of our most famous civic buildings are from brutalist beginnings. Think the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia, and many of the university buildings in Melbourne and Sydney. Over the last 30 years, brutalist buildings have been much maligned.

Today, however, there seems to be a new found love for the iconic brutalist buildings from around the world. In England, for instance, the Twentieth Century Society - a British architecture conservation society - came out and said it would be a tragedy if decent, well thought out, and essentially humane buildings were mocked and destroyed. It came as David Cameron promised to remove some of London's most talked about brutalist buildings, often used as public housing.

Over the past few years, there's been a great brutalist revival about - architects have started incorporating it into design, artists into art, painters into paint, and the BBC into headlines like 'Why Brutal is Beautiful'.

For the record, we're fond of brutalism too.

October 3, 2016
Craft

Every day is different in the S&A factories around the country. During any given week, we build stairs for houses that range in size and scale, from high end stairs that belong in some of Australia's most renowned homes, to quaint pieces in home renovations.

In our Melbourne factory, there's a constant flow through the factory, from the machine shop at the east end of the factory to the assembly area at the west end. If you follow closely enough, you can watch the raw timber go through the process of machining, dressing and gluing through the machine shop, to where it is bent, cut and crafted into the shape by our highly skilled craftsmen.

Stairs are very intricate and detailed, so there's still so much that we do by hand at the S&A factories. Along the far wall our craftsmen line the timber benches, in the same way they've done for almost 100 years. They use their specialist skills to add a human touch to our stairs, shaping all components including our signature continuous handrail.

One corner of the factory is entirely dedicated to the art of geometry. We glue up timber, create a cast, and then carefully mould and bend the timber around it over a number of days.

Once the timber has been stripped and sanded, finished, bent, curved and moulded, it heads out the other side through dispatch. It's picked up by our drivers and taken to site the very next day.

In this blog post, we asked Melbourne photographer Peter Tarasiuk, to capture the movement and life on a regular day at S&A's Melbourne factory. We are so pleased with the results.

September 15, 2016
The Oldest Living Trees

A short history of Australia's most remarkable timber, Huon Pine.

If you head west from Hobart in Tasmania in the car, you can be in some of the oldest forests on earth in just over 90 minutes. The Huon Pine Forests in the state's southwest are blanketed by narrow trees that shoot up from the mountainside and fight for the sun high into the air, they're the tallest hardwood trees on earth. If you're passing by a particularly large tree, it's likely to be more than 3,000 years old, which means it came to be long before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Ancient Egyptians and the Roman Empire.

Huon Pine grows in a particularly wet climate, and as such, has developed some incredible qualities. It's the most durable timber you'll find anywhere in Australia. According to some sources, logs that have been lying on the forest floor for several hundred years are still harvested and milled, because they contain a high density of methyl eugenol, the same essential oil that gives timber its terrific creamy yellow colour.

Today, Huon Pine is a protected species, and sadly, it's in a decline. It means that the price of Huon Pine today is between 6 and 10 times the cost of popular Australian hardwoods, because 85% of the 1.2 million hectares of old growth forest is protected permanently. If you're lucky enough to reclaim some Huon Pine, it comes alive with high polish. It's an incredibly narrow tree (it grows a maximum of 2mm every year) so in the space of 30 centimetres across the intricate, beautiful grain, you can stare back into the history of the weather and the seasons.

August 10, 2016
Architect in Focus: Graeme Gunn

It was the middle of the 1960's and the world was expanding at a rapid rate. You've heard of all the stories of the post-war boom in Europe and America, a rise in world housing, culture, and media that had never been seen before. Modern cities were expanding, bursting out from their centers and into the suburbs with new ideas and developments.

In Melbourne, it meant that we had to find a new architectural identity for a growing city. Some thought the future of Melbourne's outer suburbs - which are now ironically, Melbourne's inner city suburbs - was a quarter acre block. You'd get your lot of land, clear all of the trees and pave it with cement, without a thought for the natural landscape. Your house would look just like your next-door neighbours, and with mass market housing on the rise, it would look like it could be anywhere. After all, that's what they were doing in housing developments in America.

But then something incredibly lucky happened in Melbourne in 1965. Two young entrepreneurs, David Yencken and John Ridge, founded Merchant Builders, one of the countries most renowned and enduring project-house building companies. It was a time of great change throughout the building industry, and Merchant Builders were, perhaps, the first developer in Australia to offer architect-designed homes to the mass market. If they hadn't shown the appropriate care, Melbourne would have looked a very different city today. But over the course of 26 years from 1965, Merchant Builders changed the way Australian suburbs looked forever. We think for the better.

How did they do it?

They did it with the help of architect Graeme Gunn, who had a vision for new housing. Gunn was concerned that with new developments, there was a 'start again' mentality, where the design of a home took no reference from the environment that surrounded it. So together with landscape architect Ellis Stones, they began to hero the Australian landscape in their designs, and placed the environment around them. To this day, the work of Graeme Gunn and Ellis Stones is credited as truly iconic Australian architecture.

In an article for the University of Melbourne, Rees Quilford, the Engineering and Marketing Manager for the Melbourne School of Design, says that "Yencken and the firm's consultant landscape architect Ellis Stones were also deeply interested in how to increase density in Melbourne's inner and outer suburbs without losing the amenity of connection with landscape, and especially indigenous trees and plants. They were committed to a suburban landscape that was uniquely Australian."

"It was a house builder dedicated to the protection of the natural environment;" Guilford continues. "It promoted the merits of 'cluster' developments as an alternative to conventional approaches to suburban planning; and it offered 'kit homes' comprised of factory made components to minimise costs and embodied energy."

There's also a great article on Merchant Builders by Urbis Magazine, with photographs from Brooke Holm. You can read it here.

In 2011, Gunn was recognised for a lifetime of work in architecture, with the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal. The highest honour from the Australian Institute of Architects.

Over the course of the next six months, we're writing a series of stories on Australia's most influential architects on the S&A blog.

Photography

Top Left - Fiona Lynch renovates and restores a classic Merchant Builders' home in Melbourne's inner east. Photo by Brooke Holm.

Top Right - Converted Merchant Builders garage in Melbourne.

Middle Left - The Beaumaris home of Matt & Cindy Skinner and family. Photo by Annette O'Brien. Production by Lucy Feagins - The Design Files.

Middle Right - A home designed by Graeme Gunn and built in 1967 for John Ridge, one of the founding directors of Merchant Builders.

December 10, 2015
A new look: Slattery & Acquroff Stairs

Today, Slattery & Acquroff stairs unveils a new brand mark and domain, with a new website to come this December.

Our new look reflects much of what we have come to stand for over the last 95 years. We strive to be progressive and memorable, and to make the stair building process as simple as we possibly can.

The new brand mark, S&A Stairs, marks a move to further simplify our brand. In the process, we also announce a new website domain: www.sastairs.com.au

We have been known affectionately in the industry as S&A for many years, and our new brand mark is designed to align with what we're known as in day to day operations.

December 1, 2015
Introducing sastairs.com.au

It is with great excitement that we launch our brand new website as S&A Stairs.

May 7, 2013
A 120 year old building that exemplifies contemporary design

Nestled in Melbourne’s inner suburbs the Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership bridges the gap between the old and the new. Originally built as a school in 1882 by Henry Robert Bastow, it is the ideal setting for a forward thinking educational facility.

Boasting an array of design features it was awarded the best facade of 2012 by the AWCI. At the heart of this heritage listed building is a unique stair.  While complimenting the past with classic balustrading it remains contemporary with modern spotted gum steps flooded by light.

View our 'Bastow Institute' project here. 

Photo credit: Sarah Louise Jackson and AWCI.

May 3, 2013
Innovative thinking – abstract designs that appeal to the senses

Every so often there is an architectural design that embraces the beautifully abstract while maintaining an inviting and livable space. The Fawkner Way project, recently critiqued in the archdaily.com is one of those designs. With an incredible steel facade that lingers through the interior in the form of its staircase, the Fawkner Way project is edgy and full of intrigue.

A focal point in its own right compliments both the exterior and the adjoining kitchen. The dark steel balustrade still allows the light to flow though into the living space and brings a continuation of the wall colourings to the first floor.

To see the full review of this incredible home click here.

March 6, 2013
Bridge Hotel, Melbourne

Characterised as one of the most unique buildings in Melbourne; The Bridge Hotel in Richmond also houses one of our most unique stairs...and people are talking about it! Type "The Bridge Hotel" into a google search and you'll get review after review raving about their new design. Notably the good people at The Age have put fingers to keyboard and produced this great piece on what's now one of Melbourne's most iconic hotels.

Check out our Bridge Hotel project here.

March 6, 2013
An eclectic stair in a building full of history

We provided this stair recently for Paul Smith's Melbourne store, in the historic 120 Queen Street building. As with every Paul Smith store his "British eccentricity" shines through in all aspects of the interior. This stair is no different. It has that great mix of eclectic and traditional styles, with its mismatched balustrades and it's sweeping handrails.

We adore this stair & its backdrop of funky artwork (although we can't take the credit for that part!).

If you would like to view our Paul Smith Melbourne project, click here.

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