Episode 89 - Designing Enjoyment with Mark Alves from MAP Architects

March 17, 2023
Episode 89 - Designing Enjoyment with Mark Alves from MAP Architects

In this episode of the Build Hatch Podcast, we had the opportunity to speak with from Mark Alves from MAP Architects.

Aaron Kyle 0:00
Mark from MAP Architects in Sydney. Welcome to Build Hatch.

Mark Alves 0:03
Thanks. Thanks for having us.

Aaron Kyle 0:04
That's okay. Now well lovely to be here. And you're doing some really impressive project here in Sydney Now, like all our guests, who always like to go back to the very beginning, so whereabouts Did you grow up?

Mark Alves 0:16
I grew up locally in Sydney and around ride. And I've pretty much stayed around here. So yeah, I'm I'm 37 this year, which is Geez.

Aaron Kyle 0:26
Still quite young. Growing up, we always wanting to get into architecture.

Mark Alves 0:33
Yeah, I don't know what it was. But it was always in me. Probably, since I was less than 10 years old. For some reason. I knew that I wanted to be an architect. I don't know why. It was just there was just a thought.

Aaron Kyle 0:48
What sort of influenced that growing up like me, renovating properties with the parents?

Mark Alves 0:53
No, I didn't have no one in my family was in building. No one was an architect or any anything like that brought up by a single mother with my sister. And she worked in in a as a production coordinator in a factory. So there was no kind of external factors that led me to have that thought

Aaron Kyle 1:14
Just fell into it.

Mark Alves 1:16
Yes, that's true.

Aaron Kyle 1:18
So you studied here in Sydney? Yes. Started at UTS. Yeah. And what was that like?

Mark Alves 1:25
Was great social life but, it was it was tough. Architecture is tough at school. I remember numerous times where we, a bunch of us would actually sleep at uni, under the desks in the in the IT rooms trying to hide from security guards. So they would get us out. So yeah, it was it was tough, but we got through it.

Aaron Kyle 1:48
When you say tough when I was at uni once upon a time, I studied construction management. And that was the same faculty, if you like, for the architects, I remember, I found construction management really practical, and like it had an equal, I guess, theory and practical approach to it. Because we used to cross over into, you know, construction management use some architectural subjects, not all of them, of course. But then I remember thinking at the time, like it's, it's a really good course, for people who aren't good at maths, or that that they have a different it's like a an analytical way of thinking. And the arktech they had that sort of artistic sort of art sort of approach to things. So I'd like to think of a carpenter or a tradie listening, like, why was it tough?

Mark Alves 2:38
The workload was was extreme, like, they expect that I really did expect a lot out of us. So like tight, tight deadlines, deadlines, we need to produce a lot of work every week.

Aaron Kyle 2:51
And what sort of work? Does it vary?

Mark Alves 2:54
We have an assessment throughout the term or the semester, be like the design of a concert hall or, or a house that they varied from, from, you know, from from different avenues like that.

Aaron Kyle 3:08
And they give you a like a brief or something?

Yeah, we got briefs, or sometimes we made around briefs up. Just it all depends on what it was. And this was just mind you, this was just the design subject or all the other subjects and that we had to deal with as well. But the design was definitely the most intensive, we'd have to physically make models, every week iterations of designs, we'd have to come up with drawings and presentations every week that we would need to present it to the class to show them the progress that our design had make, based on the critique of the the tutors. So that was the crazy thing about it, it was just that the amount of work that we would physically need to do. And obviously, I was working at the time, I did have a drafting job part time, like I think was two days a week. But that was only for a small period. So it was just a lot to juggle that fold those three days of uni pretty much but you were expected the hours that needed to go into those three days at uni, it was pretty much double then you needed to work on top of that and try and balance a social life. So it was quite difficult and stressful. I mean, I remember presentations, people crying from stress and breakdowns during the presentations. It was full on.

That's for like five years?

Mark Alves 4:36
Yeah, the undergrad the three years in the bachelors was was the first year was very hard. I think they basically were trying to weed out the ones who had some romantic image about architecture and the quants that really wanted to do it. So the dropout rate in the first semester and second semester were massive. In the first three years were pretty full on I found Under the last two years, so the actual masters was a lot more. It was It wasn't easier. It was a lot better deal with maybe because we've had the experience from the first three years. But I have a feeling it was more to do with we had the choice of what we wanted to choose what we want to actually study.

Aaron Kyle 5:18
So, you're juggling you a couple of days work every week and then working. What did you do when you finally finished uni?

Mark Alves 5:24
I went overseas for a holiday. And then I started well went for a couple couple of months, I think. And then when I got back, I started applying for any kind of roles. I have a little bit of experience, but not too much. Yeah, I was just emailing everyone I could find basically, just, and I was resumes, just waiting for something to pop up. Did after a couple of weeks, I got an interview, a practice called Prescott architects. And he hired me. And I worked there for close to 10 years. And that was that was amazing. Yeah, I loved it there. We did all kinds of it was a small office, it was probably at most there was about five of us, six of us. And during the kind of more difficult times with less workload, there was probably about three of us. We did mostly residential work as well, all different scales, you know, from alternatives to multi storey apartment buildings. That was I learned a lot there. And that's pretty much my only other job in the industry. And then he retired. I mean, I was always running my own kind of smaller jobs on the side, which which rustled my job. My boss helped me with Yes, he was very supportive. And you know, he was he was my mentor is still is. He was helping me with all that. And I was running a small business on the side, in my, in my spare time on weekends. And then he kind of went into semi retirement a few years ago now. And that's when I finally that pushed me to get kind of map underway full time. And now Now Russell's pretty much either I'm painting wages now basically. So he likes that he doesn't have to worry about insurances, registration, no responsibilities. So he came to the office yesterday comes in from time to time to help us out so everything's going so yeah, that's that's basically my summary of my work career.

Aaron Kyle 7:44
I suppose it's not really like he didn't really take the plunge really. But you so you had this nice or getting sort of transition into the map architects?

Mark Alves 7:53
Yes, that's right. Yeah. So I was running my own shop. For probably from now, it's probably been eight to eight to 10 years. All that. So I think I started doing my own projects, probably a couple of years after I started working with, with Russell. So yeah, it was it was more organic. There's nothing it's not like, I've just left one day, dropped everything and just opened up my own shop that it wasn't it was much more organic, it made it a bit easier to transition as well.

Aaron Kyle 8:23
Yeah, for sure. So, do you have like a favourite project out of residential or commercial, or there's a few?

Mark Alves 8:31
A few, I think, a quirky one. And it's only really quirky because it no one everyone's really surprised about where it's located. It's on our Instagram page is very one of our most popular posts. And, understandably, it's got more like a contemporary Mediterranean style, which is quite trendy these days. Lots of arches and textured render, whites and natural timbers have been used. Everyone gets surprised. It's kind of located in Kellyville. Of all places. The clients are actually really, they're really on the money with the styling and decorating and material selections, though they've done a really good job. And will they'll be moving in in the next. Well, Alex, the husband says it's going to be a few weeks away, but in reality, it could be a bit more. Sorry, Jim. Me and that's one that will be photographing quite extensively because I think that's that's turning out really, really nicely.

Aaron Kyle 9:37
You do a lot of aged care or seen seniors living as well. So I find that really interesting. That's, that's a really fast growing, emerging part of construction. So can you shed some light into into that?

Mark Alves 9:50
So, we've got a particular client that that solely focuses on seniors or manufactured housing estates. So we've got a senior Is apartment building on a golf course in Raymond terrace that's going through the process at the moment, we've worked on a lot of manufactured housing estates in regional areas of New South Wales, some some Interstate in Victoria, as well. And what happens with those is that they're mainly land lease communities. So they're marketed towards over 50 fives in some locations they they're on specifically on golf courses and the golf course rents out the land to the home owners and they own the land but own the dwelling there all over the state really. So basically there, you know, around the 150 to 400 plus dwellings. The terms of it's a full community obviously, so they've got facilities like clubhouses, indoor outdoor pools, lawn bowls, croquet courts, pickleball. Courts, everything comes with its readily.

Aaron Kyle 11:02
Yeah, that's really interesting. So, with with this, I guess, manufactured housing like what's the process once you've got the approval? Who's manufacturing these these buildings?

Mark Alves 11:17
Well, manufactured housing estate is a bit of a loose term. People think it's a caravan park, but that's not at all what it is. Some of them are, some of them are pretty fancy demountable looking things, but most of them manufactured locally. But pretty reputable, you know, local builders, cottage builders. There's others that are even manufactured on site. That, you know, they're pretty permanent fixtures, although technically they are manufactured housing. So that they can be tilted, you know, can be tilt up. Most of them are to be honest, that conventional construction, so it's just, you know, studwork cladding, some of them have brick feature walls, so that they're pretty permanent fixtures, it would be a bit of it'd be quite difficult to move them theoretically. Possible, it will be difficult.

Aaron Kyle 12:18
Yeah, extremely. Now, how's the construction market going here? And here in Sydney, you're here based in Hunters Hill? So how's it all sort of going at the moment?

Mark Alves 12:28
Well, at the start of the year, we generally get a lot of queries, which this year is, nothing's changed from that point of view, I don't pay much attention to the media. So I go by what I am experiencing or by what other colleagues in their respective industries are experiencing.

Aaron Kyle 12:49
You focus on the internal factors, which is, as opposed to worrying about the external factors.

Mark Alves 12:57
Yeah, absolutely. So I speak to builders, trades, even brokers, mortgage brokers, stockbrokers, we've got, I've got quite a few people that I lean on for a lot of your clients to. That's right. There's a lot of we've got a lot of clients in finance. So I always ask them the question, and, you know, to be honest, it's, it's going fairly strong Touchwood, still a lot of work going on, materials are coming down a lot. And we just don't know what what is going to happen. We can't predict what's going to happen. So if you can do it, you know, just do it.

Aaron Kyle 13:39
Yeah, I think that's important. And also to, it shows that if you're in the right market, I mean, I say this just about every week, I think people still, no matter what happens, all these external factors, no matter what happens, people still more than ever value their home living spaces, basically. And they know what they want.

Mark Alves 14:04
Yeah, absolutely. A lot of our clients as well have the capacity to spend a decent amount of money on their homes. So smaller financial market factors might not have as big an impact on them. And our other clients are builders slash or developers. And at the end of the day, they need to make money, no matter what the market is doing. So from that point of view, the projects need to continue.

Aaron Kyle 14:34
Yeah, that's that's a very valid point. I mean, particularly large, larger developers have their own staff who manufacture their own materials, which is quite common, you know, in tilt panel construction, they have no choice but to keep keep moving. And if you're employing a couple 100 staff, you need to keep creating the projects and keep turning over the work. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. What else is on the cards in the in the future for for yourself, Mark and MAP Architects.

Mark Alves 15:01
We're trying to focus on more smaller residential or boutique residential developments as much as we can. We're trying to stay away from class two.

Aaron Kyle 15:15
It's getting challenging, isn't it?

Mark Alves 15:16
It's getting really challenging and the documentation is really arduous. And to be honest, that the guys here don't enjoy doing that arduous documentation. It's just not. It's not fun. It might be a necessity. But it's not enjoyable. And I think the main key for us is that we want we want to enjoy what we're what we're doing what we're producing. And that's one of the key factors of kind of focusing more on the smaller residential, duplexes, more boutique duplexes or single dwellings knock down rebuilds bigger Alton ads where we get to kind of play around with with the existing dwelling and what we actually propose to extend to. That's where we're trying to focus at the moment.

Aaron Kyle 16:03
Yeah I like that. That's important, like how has that come about? Obviously, not just yourself. But do you find that out through talking with your team? Or does your team say I'll look Mark, where we prefer to work on this? Or like, how does that work with your actual sort of team dynamics and development?

Mark Alves 16:19
I mean, I'm still on the tools, inverted commas. Yeah, I still do CAD up a lot. And I remember the days when I had to CAD ship that I didn't like, I can see it in their faces, and I hear the size and curses in the office. So we do talk we do, you know, we try to have bi weekly catch ups to see how projects are going. And the ones that linger on generally the ones that we don't enjoy doing as much.

Aaron Kyle 16:51
Yeah, that's right. All right. So when you're not busy running MAP Architects here in in Hunters Hill, Margaret, what do you like to do outside of work?

Mark Alves 17:02
Well, I'm married with two girls. So I've been married for you. It'll be eight years this year. Yeah, six year olds and four year old should be four in a couple of weeks now. So it's more just family time to be honest, we just chill out by the pool, just relax, go try and keep the kids entertained. And, and not arguing. That's, that's the main priority.

Aaron Kyle 17:30
Now, you mentioned about travelling before. Architects, they just always seem to go to these wonderful places, or they put it on their bucket list, they want to travel to certain areas, is there an area that you really want to get to as an architect that you've maybe been there already,

Mark Alves 17:46
I've done a bit of travelling, but not too much. I mainly go fainted the next big trip for us would be would be Europe, really, the kids are kind of getting to that age where they'd be a bit more tolerable on a long plane flight. And my my parents, Portuguese background, so most of my mom's family's over over there. And my wife's background is Italian. So she's been to Italy once. So it'd be nice to show my kids where they are kind of Heritage's from it's that beautiful places, you know, so good to have the opportunity to go over this. It's it's quite nice. We've done the states you know, London, England, Dubai, which is a bit crazy, to be honest with.

Aaron Kyle 18:35
Dubai is actually my favourite place in the world to go too. There's pretty cool, not just construction but like everything, you know, like, obviously, they have more money and wealth than, than probably anywhere in the rest of the world. And, and so they can just build an import whatever they want. It's pretty wild. like nothing's a challenge for them. Nothing's an issue.

More more recently, during COVID. We've just been enjoying more of the, the short trips away, to be honest, just to just sort of X. Sure there is some bucket list items that I love to go to. I love to go to Japan. But you know, it's more just the family time that I kind of crave outside of architecture and that headspace really.

Mark Alves 19:23
Yeah, it's definitely important. Well Mark from map architects here in Sydney. Thanks for coming on to build out it's been really nice to talk to you. People listen to this who want to reach out and get into contact with you. What's the best way to go about it?

Give us a buzz on on the on my mobile or on the on the office phone and we'll get back to you or you can flick through an email or a message on Instagram. My wife does a great job of managing our Instagram page some bit of a multitasker just shout and will kind of help you out more than anyone wants. We also have a chat room.

Aaron Kyle 20:01
Well, I encourage everyone to check out MAP Architects. Your socials are pretty impressive. Your working on some amazing projects here in Sydney and I'm always intrigued people I guess outside of Sydney, the market here in Sydney is very different. Obviously done extremely well for yourself mark and map architects just creating yourself that that nation and working on some amazing projects, kudos to you so well done.

Mark Alves 20:28
Thank you and Thanks heaps.