“What people say they want might not be what they really mean,” says Chahid Kairouz, Architect and Managing Director of Melbourne’s C. Kairouz Architects. You must dissect the brief and really understand what the key drivers are. Often, the most successful projects are the ones where you deliver something that’s not necessarily what the client originally set out for.”
Robust communication with clients is a key focus for Chahid and his practice, enabling him to take a huge variety of complex projects at all scales. “Even though it is a tangible building that we deliver in the end, what we do is all about people. It’s all about inspiring people with a vision both in design intent and outcome... One of the greatest parts of the job is being able to be relied upon, to be trusted and to really impact people’s lives. When you do that once or twice it becomes like a drug; you're addicted to both helping and improving."
Chahid was perhaps always destined for entrepreneurship, though the architectural focus of that aspiration came a little later. “I came from a family culture where owning your own business was the norm. I started working for my father’s meat processing business at the age of 10. It became part of my psyche to eventually enter into a field where I could run my own business. I liked the idea of managing a team of people and all the processes that come with it. So, really, whether it was architecture or being an optometrist or a taxi driver, it was always the optimum pursuit to own my own business.”
It was a high school teacher who helped shape Chahid’s trajectory towards a career in architecture, he says. “He saw my strengths in hand drawing and visualising forms and shapes and 3D drawing spaces and really encouraged me to continue pursuing this skill. He would give me small projects to complete outside of school and this gave me the edge when it came to honing my freehand drawing skills in various perspectives. His encouragement really spurred me on to exploring 3D spaces and geometry, merging my visual skills with my strengths in mathematics.”
While undertaking an ambitious triple major in architecture, construction and planning at the University of Melbourne, Chahid started a hobby business doing small renovations and extension projects. Through this work, he quickly realised the importance of learning how structures come together. “I decided to invest in myself and work in construction for 10 years before starting my own practice to ensure that I first had a strong foundation in building. It was not a question that I needed the experience in construction to be a better architect; it was essential. I was fortunate enough to have the perfect training ground in working for the Grollo Group construction company.”
Chahid has since put that experience to work with designs ranging from residential builds to large-scale urban planning, all of which he views as integral to his practice. “There is something really satisfying about showing someone through their newly finished home or eating at a restaurant or staying at a hotel you have been part of.”
He cites ‘The General’ as one of his most personal and emotional works to-date, in memory of his late father, where he worked together with his family to produce a unique multi-residential response to the corner site. The 8-storey mixed-use development in Melbourne’s Northcote suburb was the first building in Australia to use Onyx solar photovoltaic transparent glass on a facade, meaning that it earned a 7.8-star energy rating, providing a sustainable alternative to conventional apartment builds. Its name signifies the building as being a leader for responsible medium density housing and recognizes Chahid’s father’s journey from migrant to successful business owner.
“I enjoy working in urban development because it calls for a greater awareness around social and sustainable impacts for the community and environment. These projects can create significant, lasting change and impact. At a personal level and as a practice, you have a responsibility to make a healthy and positive contribution to the social framework of creating spaces and places... We are in a very privileged position as architects and our world is currently facing greater existential issues. We can all do our part in solving these problems one project at a time. No matter the size, it all counts."
“There is something really satisfying about showing someone through their newly finished home or eating at a restaurant or staying at a hotel you have been part of.”
At the end of C. Kairouz’s first decade in business, Chahid says that this sustainability focus and desire for positive impact are integrated in decision-making at all levels of his practice. “There are small decisions you can make in a detail, or decisions which are larger in scale, such as a solar farm, that can really make a difference to the outcome. We see it as an opportunity to improve and better our design abilities; to continue to explore new ways to combat the climate crisis and create better architecture as a result. It’s about being mindful and using our position in the industry to push for responsible building design.
“When I look ahead to the next 10 years, it is really all about shouldering the responsibility for combatting climate change through developing long-lasting architecture that operates in a sustainable way. Architecture that’s conscientious, aesthetically pleasing and provokes a great experience.”
To learn more abut Chahid’s work visit https://ckarchitects.com.au, connect with him on Instagram or find him on LinkedIn.