Armidale has recently inherited a young Architect from Sydney named Ben Mitchell. Ben shares his excitement about his tree change and tells us why he has chosen to raise his family in the country.
Tell us about your family …
My wife Melissa and I have three kids: Georgia, aged 10; Bayley, aged 8; and Belle, aged 5. Melissa is studying the biomedical science degree at UNE, and I run my own Architecture practice with studios in Sydney and in Armidale. The kids all attend Armidale City Primary School and love the country lifestyle immensely.
Our extended families are scattered around the country also and love nothing better than a trip to Armidale to visit the kids and enjoy the relaxed Armidale lifestyle.
Where have you moved to Armidale from?
We made the move from Mosman in Sydney, which is quite a hectic environment in which to raise a young family – particularly whilst studying a demanding degree and running an Architecture practice. Outside of the annual holiday, very rarely did we get time as a family to take stock.
We were also renovating an old cobblers workshop, turning it into a family home and having completed this, we were looking for a new challenge – one that would be beneficial for us as a family. In Sydney we were both taking on many demanding roles outside of the family unit and in such a fast paced environment, it didn’t leave much room for down time. Here in Armidale, we still live busy lives and take on many professional and personal responsibilities, but are able to do so in a much more measured way.
What do you like about living here?
Well, primarily we like the people here. The pace of life is also more sustainable I think, compared to where we have come from. It seems to me that communication with the people around you, particularly your own family members, is just that much easier here.
Melissa and I can have breakfast with the kids, walk to school with them and then grab a coffee together before we go about our daily business. Oh … and boy do the lads at the Goldfish Bowl make an amazing coffee! It has become somewhat of a daily ritual. Armidale really has been a great catalyst for our quality of life as a family.
How does our town compare to Sydney?
Armidale obviously has a much smaller population than Sydney; however, the richness of spirit in the people here makes this community special. People have the time, or should I say give you their time graciously, and that is so important.
It’s not easy relocating a young family from the comforts of a familiar environment to a new town, but the community here has made the transition a really humbling and rewarding experience. I think what really sets Armidale apart from Sydney is that when you do business with people here, you inevitably make a friend. I love that.
Tell us about Studio Mitchell Architecture?
By choice, my Architecture practice is small. I have no staff, which really enables my clients to benefit from knowing that when they engage me as their Architect, I will personally be with them every step of the way. The process of designing for a client requires a high level of personal interaction, so the structure of my practice works well in this regard. My practice works across all sectors of the built environment, from retail to commercial, though it specialises in residential projects.
I am often asked by prospective clients what style of Architecture I practice. As an Architect today, I don’t believe that any one ‘style’ is appropriate to use as a rubber stamp per se. Rather, I practice with solid and proven design principles that result in excellent buildings, both in appearance and in performance.
Every project is unique and deserves a carefully considered architectural response, whether it be an addition to a heritage listed dwelling on a town block, or a new homestead on a large estate.
The practice takes on projects of all sizes and budgets, with projects currently on the drawing board ranging from 20 thousand to 2 million dollars. Fee structures are obviously tailored to suit the project budget, and each and every project is given equal consideration.
What are your personal interests?
I’m quite fortunate in that my personal interests sleeve nicely with my professional ones. I love to design furniture, and often my professional clients will end up with pieces I have designed in their homes or retail spaces.
I studied a design degree at Sydney University before going onto the Architecture degree, and the two disciplines are actually quite closely related. Outside of design and Architecture, I am very interested in music; although I cannot play an instrument, I am fascinated by the process of its arrangement. I also love to ski and to surf.
Where do you gain your inspiration from?
Since moving here, I have met many extremely talented people applying themselves to endeavours they are truly passionate about. Endeavours that are socially, culturally and environmentally responsible … that is inspiring.
I also draw inspiration from my family, my wife Melissa in particular, who is an amazing mother, wife and above all, woman in her own right. Our kids just make me smile, as they are all about the fun – and that is such an important reminder. As responsible adults, we forget how to just have fun and enjoy what we have sometimes.
Immediate plans for the future?
As a family, we have decided to permanently base ourselves here in Armidale, and we are really looking forward to schooling our kids here and making lots of new friends along the way. As an Architect, my immediate focus is to introduce myself to the community in a professional capacity.
I am focused on building lasting client relationships in the New England region by engaging in open dialogue and offering a highly informed and competitive professional service across all sectors of the built environment.