Methodological approach helps ensures X-Space Architects’ projects go the distance while meeting clients’ brief and budget
macintype_dev • 22 August 2022
Orlando Catenacci of X-Space Architects has a career which now spans more than two decades, but he can still trace his passion for his chosen profession back to a childhood spent playing with Lego.
“I could keep myself entertained for hours, between coming up with my own Lego creations and sketching just about anything. I found it extremely rewarding to see something I visualised come to life,” he recalls.
Having entered the industry as a draftsperson, Orlando soon realised that to be truly happy he needed to become an architect, so went to on to pursue his degree at Curtin University. “My drafting skills allowed me to work and sub-contract throughout my time at uni, which meant I had a lot more industry experience than my colleagues by the time we graduated.”
Based in the Perth suburb of Osborne Park, Orlando’s firm X-Space Architects provides both architectural and interior packages, focusing on luxury residential, multi-residential apartments and mixed use developments, and specialised commercial projects.
“The firm runs lean and I am heavily involved in all projects,” he tells us. “A typical day in the office is around 10 hours and starts early – I’m in by 7am and when there are deadlines that can even be as early as 3.30am. I don’t like staying later than 5 to 5.30 as I like the idea of leaving the office around the same time as the rest of the world!”
He describes X-Space’s point of difference as “we understand what we design and draw and most importantly, we understand how it all goes together”, emphasising:
“We spend a lot of time coordinating all engineering consultancy drawings and specialist services report requirements into our construction documentation, and then we work on getting the 3D model and drawings to work before any construction starts on site. We value builder input throughout the design process and often work in a design and construction arrangement with builders.”
Having learnt to use Autocad and Revit while studying, Orlando wasn’t introduced to Archicad until taking up his first job as an architect. Once he started up X-Space Architects, he committed himself to learning Archicad at an expert level.
“I wanted it to be the preferred software platform that we would use to produce all our architectural design and documentation packages,” he explains. “There will always be a place for hand drawings in our firm as I find it by far the fastest way to get an idea on paper. But if I really want to sell an idea or concept to a client, I’ve found that producing the design concept as a 3D model allows us to talk and virtually walk them through the design.
“We still have clients who appreciate a hand sketch, but not all understand the technical drawings we produce, and over the years it’s become clear that they all understand a 3D model much easier. We’ve found the 3D modelling process has been invaluable to our firm especially in how we communicate our designs to clients, authorities, builders and suppliers.”
He attributes much of X-Space’s success to “a very methodological approach for ensuring a project goes the distance and meets the brief and budget”.
“A successful project doesn’t just happen by chance,” he emphasises. “It requires a lot of things to come together. It starts with taking a solid brief from the client, knowing what questions to ask. At times we also have to challenge the brief to make sure what the clients are asking from us is the most appropriate pathway for their vision.
“In the early days of a project’s design process we’ll also provide our clients with a look-book of high quality exemplar projects and design details. This helps us to describe and convey a particular look and feel that we’re trying to capture, and allows us to ensure we’re on the right path to meeting their design brief before we progress too deeply into the process.
“It’s also important to adopt a sustainable design and energy efficient approach to architecture. At an absolute minimum, all designs need to incorporate basic solar passive design principles, sustainable and energy efficient construction methodologies and sustainable material selections.”
Looking back at the evolution of the local marketplace over the years, Orlando says it’s become much more competitive:
“More and more firms are sharing their architectural work on the various social media platforms that once upon a time didn’t exist. Everyday people are now much more exposed and have many more choices with who they want to use on their next project.
“We’ve also found there seems to be many more rules and regulations particularly with local councils and getting development approval for projects. This makes it more difficult to estimate how long it will take for a project to be granted with DA approval, especially if we’ve submitted a project that pushes the boundaries on conventional housing types, or if a design showcases an architectural style that’s unique and different.
“If I could change one piece of legislation, it would be to privatise DA approval assessments, similar to how projects can be privately certified for building permits.”