Q&A with Darren Lockyer
Having established himself as one of Australia’s best ever rugby league players, setting numerous records in a 17 year career, Darren Lockyer tells journalist Giovanna Dunmall about his new ventures into property development and why he is choosing to work with Queensland architects.
Published Fri Apr 20, 2012
When did you first realise that architecture was something you were passionate about?
From a young age my family used to take a fair bit of pride in their house. Tending to the garden was important to mum and dad and I remember they tried to make the house look good. After I started my football career in 1995 I started to earn some good money and it was time for me to buy my first house so I started looking around. I looked at a vacant block of land up for sale and thought I wouldn’t mind buying that. There was this contemporary house beside. It was a structure that caught my eye, which just suited the surroundings. I thought ‘I need to find out who designed that’. I tracked the architects down and it was BVN. Shane Thompson (who was at BVN at the time) designed the house and I have worked with him on projects ever since.
From there I just started to pick up magazines and look at different architects’ work. I found myself driving round the streets ofBrisbaneand noticed several houses that were obviously architecturally-designed. And then I started buying books and just looking at architects’ work around the world.
I hear that Brisbane firm Owen and Vokes are designing your new family home. Can you tell me about that?
I’ve always admired Owen and Vokes’ work and one of the things I’ve always wanted to do was to buy a block of land and build a residential property for the family and get it designed by them. This is what I love about these architects. Instead of asking ‘what sort of house do you want?’, Paul (Owen) asked ‘how do you currently live?’ That was a good way to look at it. We’re still in the schematics stage but we’re starting to see a structure that really suits how we live and we’re really excited about what the end result is going to be.
Are there going to be any particularly sustainable features in your new home?
The site we’re on has got a lot of trees, which is good. We’re trying to create somewhere for us to sleep inside that is like a park environment. It’s quite humid here in Brisbane but we’d love to try and make a house that has great cross ventilation so that we don’t have to rely on air-conditioning. We’re lucky in that it is going to be north-facing so it’s going to be considerably cooler than our last house in the summer. And then we’re going to get nice sun in the mornings through winter so it’s perfect in that regard - that will definitely help with saving energy.
Can you tell me a little bit about the commercial projects you are working on with Shane Thompson?
One of them we’re doing at the moment is the restoration of an old house, an old doctor’s quarters. I think it was built in the 60s and it’s been let go over the years and at the moment it’s empty and overgrown. We are going to bring it back to life, restore the old building and put an outdoor pergola on the ground level. It will be used for commercial or retail downstairs and upstairs is going to be office space for local businesses. It’s in a little precinct called Rosalie known for its cafes. It’s a tiny little community, which I don’t live far from. I love that we’ve been able to retain the history on the site.
I’m also looking at another commercial project with Shane. I can’t disclose too many details at this stage. It’s a bit more substantial than the one at Rosalie but it’s one I’m very excited about. The project is close to my favourite football ground, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. It’s a site that I’ve owned for a number of years and I’ve always had this vision for it. Shane (Thompson) was the man I called. I think it’s something that the residents and the local community will appreciate.
What do you enjoy about working with architects?
I guess I like to see things reach their potential but I don’t have the skill or ability to create something like an artist does on a painting. I think you are just born with that natural gift sometimes. That’s what I like about architects. You tell them your brief and what you want and then they go away and use their creative minds and come up with this thing that’s fantastic. The one thing I know, particularly with our new house by Owen and Vokes, is that they’re going to build a space that we are never going to get tired of. I want the house to be able to feel like every day we come home and we just love being there. And I’m confident that by using a good architect like Owen and Vokes that is going to be the case.
Do you think some people are scared of using architects?
There is a perception out there that using architects is too expensive and not worth it. Whereas I think it comes down to personal taste. I’ve looked at a lot of architects’ work and there’s ones where I like the way they create and design things. I see the money that I have spent on using them as an investment, money that I’ll get back in the end value of the product, and in that satisfaction or feeling that I’ve got a product that I’ll never get bored of. People are a bit scared about engaging an architect but I reckon it’s worth taking that opportunity and I think you’d be more than happy with the end result. Your house is such a big investment, if you can build it so you never get bored of it then it’s been a good investment.
How are Queensland architects different from other architects?
It comes down to our climate. In Queensland we’ve got the outback, we’ve got rainforests, we’ve got metropolitan cities, we’ve got countryside and we’ve got the beach. I think that’s why the architects here in Queensland need to be flexible and adaptable. A lot of architects in the metropolitan areas have had to learn how to restore the old Queenslander houses and bring a contemporary edge to them. There’s a lot of different projects that you encounter acrossQueenslandand I just admire the way the architects adapt.
What are your favourite buildings in Queensland?
I love the historic buildings, the ones that they restore. There are a lot of churches in Brisbane up on top of hills and they’ve got great brick detailing. I like brick because it’s timeless. Recently I took my son to swimming lessons and m3architecture has just renovated the pool at UQ in St Lucia. They’ve done a fantastic job. It’s got a lot of brick detail. Owen and Vokes did a house down in a coastal town (it’s called Cabarita Beach House) to a small budget. I love it when your budget is small but you get a very good outcome. That was a job well done. I also like Brisbane Powerhouse, an old powerhouse that has been restored to its original form and is now used for contemporary purposes; and Santos Place, an office tower in Brisbane’s CBD by Donovan Hill that is impressive to me because it is a commercial building but has a residential feel about it.
Are there any similarities between your football career and architecture?
I guess as a footballer your goal every year is to win the grand final. In architecture if at the end of the project you get the product or outcome you wanted, well then you’ve won your grand final there! I think that’s the best way for me to explain it. As a professional athlete you have goals, you want to reach your potential.
Is your future in property development?
That’s what I’d like to keep doing. I’m only doing it on a small scale at the moment but it’s a good learning curve. This is where my real enjoyment lies, it’s my real passion.
Giovanna Dunmall is a London based journalist, who writes about travel, architecture and design for publications such as Artichoke, Indesign, FRAME, MARK, Wallpaper*, The Economist and the South China Morning Post.