Justin Hatch is Director of Design and Construction at Psaros. This is a leading Perth property development company. Early in his career Justin worked with Neil Cownie at Overman and Zuideveld. They completed over thirty major projects together.
What type of projects did you do at Overman & Zuideveld?
We worked on a combination of boutique and luxury residences. There were mixed use developments with both commercial and apartments. Others were luxury apartment projects. We were also involved with other commercial projects like pubs and hotels. It was a broad range of about thirty different projects. I was with Overman and Zuideveld for about eight and a half years working with Neil. We covered a mighty body of work in that time.
What was it like working with Neil?
Fantastic, great. Neil is a very good designer. He designs in 3D, while a lot of architects tend to do planning first and then worry about how it looks later on. Neil would look at the whole project. He has a practical approach.
Can you explain a little bit more about how Neil works during the design process?
He’s a clever designer. He thinks about what the building is also going to look like. He’s also keeping in mind how are you going to build it. I think he does all that while keeping a close eye on the client’s brief. I think he does all that very well.
I’ve dealt with quite a few architects and I find Neil unusual in how he manages that mix. I rate him very highly. There maybe certain architects with more prestigious awards. In contrast I feel Neil is the complete architect who covers all aspects of the job.
He doesn’t just look at the design. He thinks carefully about how does it all go together. How do you build it? What’s it going to look like? The biggest thing for me is the client’s brief. Are you following the client’s brief which also includes fiscal. A lot of architects have a bad reputation for that. “Yes you’ve designed me a fantastic building but my budget was X and you delivered me Y”.
Can you talk about his approach to the construction phase?
It’s all positive. Architects can be head strong and confrontational. “It has to be this way. I don’t care what challenges you’re facing in the construction phase. This is what I want it look like.”
Neil has a different approach. He can adapt and change things to make it easy to build but still get the desired outcome he wants. He works well with builders. I think they enjoy working with him. Clients enjoy working with him.
If you working in the construction industry there will be issues. Only places like McDonalds have no surprises. In construction, changes happen all the time. You need to be adaptive during the construction phase especially. This was one of Neil’s strengths. He’s good at adapting and we never had issues at all.
You now work in property development. Why did you choose Neil over other architects?
I love working with Neil. He is practical. He can follow a brief. With so many other architects that isn’t always the case. You’d give a brief to some architects and get something completely different back.
Also we were looking for change in this company. We felt the designs we were using had become a bit stale. Often in this industry you can identify who has done a project because people develop styles. That isn’t the case with Neil. He’s been quite successful maintaining his own versatility. He doesn’t pigeonhole himself to one style. That was part why we made the decision to bring Neil in. We wanted our designs to evolve. We wanted fresh new concepts. Neil did that and it’s worked well.
How do you describe Neil to other people who are looking for an architect?
I say, “Don’t expect someone who is the stereo type of an architect that you often hear about. They come in all airy fairy. It’s all about this wonderful design but you’re never going to be able to build it within your budget.”
Neil is completely the opposite. He listens to you. He’s got a real practical approach to the design. I like his work.
I think he’s very talented. He can deliver what you want, for the budget you want and still have that architectural feel. I think that’s his greatest asset.
There are lots of architects who might deliver you something. The only problem is you’ll be paying three times the price for it.
Would you recommend Neil Cownie?
I would have no issues recommending Neil. Every time there’s a need for an architect I try to get Neil involved because I enjoy working with him. We’d like to bring him in this organisation to work for us again soon. I hope Neil get’s the success he deserves because he’s so good at what he does.