After 20 years as a practice Director in Tweed, architect Andrew Armstrong decided his home town of Coolangatta was the ideal place to set up shop to run his own firm. In 2015, Armstrong & Co. popped up next to the Coolangatta Pie Shop, coinciding with the revival of the Griffith St stretch.
Inspired by his grandfather who was a naval draftsman for the company that built the Titanic, Andrew’s eye for architecture began in his early years after he inherited his grandfather’s drawing equipment. Architecture felt like the right path and his university years saw him start working at a practice in Spring Hill. From there he moved to the firm’s Tweed office and was the Director of the practice for 20 years while living and raising his family in Coolangatta.
When the time came to close the Tweed office, Andrew bypassed the big city lure of Brisbane and opted for Coolangatta, leaving behind the large firm life to open his own smaller, more compact practice with a select group of clients. Being able to walk to work is one of the perks Andrew now enjoys. “It is a wonderful place to live and work,” he says. “I can walk to the office from home and if I take the long way, I wander around Kirra Point. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Armstrong & Co. has been involved in the design of projects including schools, aged care, healthcare, commercial, residential, civic and many others. “With this experience we can cross over ideas between project types, bringing a fresh set of eyes to new design challenges,” says Andrew. “There is a real joy in exploring and challenging a client’s needs, then turning a scribble the size of a postage stamp into a successful project.”
Andrew believes sustainability and the use of technology will continue to be an important part of the design industry, with excitement about the use of 3D printed building materials in the future. However, he doesn’t believe it should all be onwards and upwards. “The Gold Coast is a young city and is an amazing mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. Sustainability will be a focus but also I believe the future of the city will be in designing buildings that can have multiple uses over time.”
With major buildings having a lifespan of 50 to 70 years, Andrew wants to see them designed for adaptive re-use as the community’s needs change over time. “A highrise may start as a hotel or a unit building and then part of it could be adapted for aged care or an office building or become a shell for a school,” he says.
“It’s sad to see pieces of our short history like St Peters in Coolangatta being replaced by unit buildings. This part of the Coast is unique for many reasons and requires its own level of creativity to ensure that it doesn’t become another Surfers Paradise. While change is inevitable, the challenge is to retain and respect what we have.”
Andrew’s ethos follows the idea that design is about people. “It’s about dreaming, imagination and fulfilling needs, about memorable experiences and how they make us feel, listening and learning so everyone’s contribution is recognised and valued. Everyone has a story to tell and that really matters.
“By virtue of the work we do, we won’t get to meet many of the people we design for who are the kids and teachers at the schools or the patients and doctors at the health facilities, but we believe that our work has the opportunity to have a positive influence on many people.”
Armstrong & Co. is located at 2/52 Griffith St, Coolangatta. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.