A client focus and a reverence for place have been fundamental for Denmark firm PTX Architects.
When was the practice established? How has your practice evolved over time?
We established PTX Architects in 2006 in Perth and relocated to Denmark on the South Coast of Western Australia in 2008. The practice partners are David Gibson and Melanie Hoessle, who specialise in creating bespoke residential, public and commercial architecture that reflects and responds to the landscape around it. Clients range from individuals and families to large commercial and community organisations. PTX has particular experience in helping community organisations realise a vision by taking a project from a master-planning/visualisation stage through detailed design and documentation stages to the completion of construction.
What is your practice philosophy? How does this impact on the way you run it as a business?
Being based on the beautiful South Coast of WA and with deep roots in the local community, we have built our philosophy on a reverence for place, and the importance of finding harmonies between our client’s needs and the landscape they live and operate in. For our practice to firstly survive and then become profitable in such a remote location, we have had to develop an alternative business model that is both light and flexible and quite different from the traditional practice model.
Can you tell us about a key project that provided a turning point in the life of the practice?
The Denmark Environment Centre was the first project we completed directly for a locally based not-for-profit community organisation. Through this project we developed a design process that revolves around listening and engaging with the client, so they are truly involved, and through which we can gain a greater understanding of place. We have since completed a second community project, The Denmark Riverside Club, and are currently in the design stages of a third, The Denmark Surf Life Saving Club. All have been built on this methodology.
What are the key business lessons you have learned while running your practice?
The client is the most important part of the process, but not all clients are the right fit for your practice. It is important to recognise which clients will be good for your practice and not just take on every project that comes through the door. Also, if you have appropriate fees for a project the client will generally value your services more.
What have been the biggest challenges and successes?
Practising architecture in a remote regional community can be very challenging. Architecture is not well understood generally in Australia and this is even more so when you practise outside the big cities. An increase in construction costs due to the remote location is also a big challenge, as is the unavailability of skilled employees. But the flipside is that it is highly rewarding when your projects are well received by the local community that you work, live and breathe in.
What are the biggest issues involved in running your practice?
Being efficient with tasks so we can remain profitable. A lot of this comes down to good time management, which architects are generally poor at. Luckily, we are half German.
How has technology impacted on how you conduct business?
Social media and the web has enabled more people to know we exist and helped us to stay connected with the broader architectural community. Tools like Dropbox have enabled us to run projects in remote locations. We also have a good architecturally specific content management system, which definitely makes us more efficient and ultimately profitable.
How do you market your practice?
Through our website and tailored SEO, a little bit through Instagram and a small amount of advertising in a local creative print publication. We have just started to get enquiries from magazines to publish our work, which is exciting.
What are your ambitions for your practice?
We would like to continue to develop our design processes and be involved in projects of significance that truly enhance the community’s natural environment and social connections.
Where do you see your business in the next five years?
It’s hard to say. Our philosophy has always been to embrace the journey and see where it takes us. In five years’ time, if we are still doing work that we are proud of and we are profitable, we will be happy.
If you had one piece of advice for someone starting out, what would it be?
Be patient. It takes time to develop good processes and systems. Architecture is a long game.