Meet the Minds – Jeremy BullJanuary 10, 2018
From the sexy to the sobering and the sophisticated, Jeremy Bull’s portfolio features a project for every palette. Since launching the Sydney-based practice Alexander & Co., Bull has perfected a design language simultaneously modern and refined. Here, he discusses learning lessons the hard way, taking risks, and whether the pen is truly mightier.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I have always drawn, ever since I can remember. My interest was probably just in holding a pen, sketching. I think design was just an evolution toward commodifying this interest.
What are some of your first memories of design?
In my first role, I remember being astonished that what I had drawn was built. It was a total revelation after being at university. My pen not only had actual influence, but a few lines in the wrong place or badly conceived could result in hours of work for many people. That was the first lesson, that a line had no weight, no materiality. It was fundamentally flawed as a process for creating anything more than an idea and anything I did from that point would need actual intelligence.
Did where you grew up influence your career path?
I have lived in a few locations including the Middle East, but I think the greater influence was my family. Although my parents both come from medical backgrounds, my siblings and I are all arts-focused.
Give us a bit of your background: college, first jobs, early lessons learned?
I studied at Sydney University, but was not much of a student until my final year and under the guidance of an amazing tutor. She was really my first mentor, and many of the lessons I learned then I keep with me. I still consider the role of the mentor quite critical to the growth of a young practitioner, and it is something I try now to give to those in our firm. My first jobs were with Indyk Architects and Andrew Burges Architects—both amazing for very different reasons. The greatest lesson was that of resilience and that I was probably going to learn a lot of things the hard way, and somehow I would need to survive it.
Why and how did you start your own firm?
I started Alexander & Co. with a single project at my local café. I was ready to not hide behind anything or anyone. This is the evolution of a creative, from apprentice onward. And having spent long enough believing I could do it for myself, it was time to prove it. I had nothing to lose at the time, and always believed I could get a job with someone else if it all failed. It has taken plenty of inspirational quotes and long nights since then, but the rewards outshine the downsides. In the end, the why is to create something amazing you can share with people you care about whilst doing something with love.
Can you discuss some of your recent projects?
The Park House in Sydney is a recent favorite. Just raw and upcycled. It’s a fun departure.
Is there a challenging project you are especially proud of?
Raising four young sons with my loving and supportive partner Tess makes design look pretty unimportant most of the time.
What are the most challenging and exciting aspects of your job?
People and people. It’s all about humans, creating the right culture, growing your community, creating effective relationships, and allowing the best design byproduct.
What is the most important thing to remember when designing a restaurant—both in terms of branding and interiors??
People experience space emotionally not intellectually. It all has to feel something. We are mammals and also emotional creatures who look for feeling and memories to gauge response.
Is there an architect or designer you most admire?
Lots of them, not so much any one. It is a shared dialogue. Everyone from the wonderful modernists like Le Corbusier to the the contemporary decorators like Kelly Wearstler have something to say, which is necessary for our trade.
What is your dream project?
I would love to brand and design a hotel concept—something big and audacious. In saying that though, I love every residential project that we work on also, smaller but as lovable.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I would love to sit with my long-deceased grandfathers, (living) father, and sons. Together on my back deck, and for my own sons to meet my grandfathers and to see their own place in this cycle.
Where would you eat and what would you be having?
A glass of champagne in my backyard would be perfect.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
A writer, I think. But maybe a monk.