Now in its tenth year, FGR Architects was established with a prime focus on singular and multi-residential developments, coupled with a lingering interest in industrial and commercial work. The company works diligently to provide a full scope of services including schematic design, design development, plan and permit preparation, interior design, fittings and fixtures. For Director Feras Raffoul, practical design is a paramount focus throughout each project, as it helps establish the relationship between a space and its occupier. “Dwellings are an organism that you live within,” he says. “So, it’s not just about being aesthetically beautiful and pleasing; it can be very functional, too. The space itself allows you to function within it in different ways, and a space that is set up well enough in its plan and volume form can change the feeling of the beings that are accompanying it.
The influence that good design has on the people occupying these dwellings is really hard to gauge, because it could be quite dramatic – in their lifestyle, in their approach, in their energy, and in their well-being. It’s vitally important that we understand our clients’ lifestyle and how they look at navigating around within the architecture or the building so that we can customise a design that suits them really well. The main thing about architecture is ensuring that we’ve customised a residence, building, or dwelling that allows the occupant to feel comfortable within that space. There’s a familiarity about it, but there’s also something new that they haven’t been aware of that is now custom to how they like to live and occupy a certain space.”
According to Raffoul, the company’s commitment to environmental efficiency is most clearly evident through their natural palette of materials and methods. “We use timber, concrete, glass – products that are in their fairly raw form,” he says. “Sustainable design is now being placed upon architects as a base measure, so you need to attain that when preparing a building to ensure that it gets its energy ratings; that has to be considered, and it really comes down to how far forward the architect or the designer has to take it. So, that is something that we’re really starting to investigate and look into a lot more now; but, also being able to pick the right type of sustainable design and elements that are going to be cost-efficient for the occupant in this day and age. A lot of these things are still being reviewed, and they’re not at a cost efficiency of purchase at the moment.”
Promoting teamwork is one of the most important practices at FGR Architects. Raffoul and his associates ensure that brainstorming sessions are inclusive of all staff members, encouraging them to challenge their ideas to create the best designs possible to represent the company. “We dissect items and understand that we’ve got something, but how do we better it? How do we advance it? We question ourselves in what we do, but ensure that we stick to our design philosophy. I think the difficulty in design and architecture is that you try to move to what you feel the market’s doing and what’s trendy at the moment, and the most difficult thing is ensuring that you stick to your own design philosophy and see where that takes you. So, we’re very excited and have strong beliefs about the road we’re going down and the design approach we’re looking to take. We’re really looking forward to the next three to five years in front of us.”
Currently, the global economy is one of the main factors Raffoul thinks will have a large effect on the industry, in both a negative and positive way. While it may affect the way homeowners manage or cut their costs, it will also cause them to use more ingenuity in their design strategies. “It may strengthen it in making people aware and smart on how they approach things; but, when the economy becomes tighter, clients value-manage projects to try to ensure that they get the correct return out of it,” he says. “A lot of architecture that you’ll see out there may be criticised for certain finishes by the architect, unaware that these items have been value-managed by the client and or builder to ensure that they achieve the budget.
Raffoul began FGR Architects following his graduation from university. He still shares his knowledge within the educational realm by teaching Construction and Technology at RMIT University. He believes that every achievement within company grounds is considered a collective feat, and he constantly encourages holistic success. “If you have a vision for something and you believe in it, pursue and execute it,” he says. “When creating architecture, we usually use the largest financial individual outlay people will have. Building a dwelling – whether it’s commercial, domestic, or however it is – is usually the largest single financial outlay they’ll put forward. So, I think it’s important that people have got a vision that they’d like to execute; to investigate it, try to pursue it and see it through, as opposed to derailing it and ensuring that they do what someone else has done. It is important that they believe in it, and they’ll be pleasantly surprised about the end result. If people do that more and more, we’ll start to get more individual, customised, and interesting works of architecture.”