Every week in our Q&ADR column, ADR interviews an architect, designer, object maker or industry person about who they are beyond the work – their life, inspiration, challenges and aspirations.
This week we meet architect Craig Stoll from boutique practice Stoll-Long (which he runs with his wife, Gail Long, an architect). Stoll started his career working on high-end private homes, yet his passion lies in social housing and his studio is behind projects such as Common Ground on Elizabeth St, a precinct that provides affordable housing for over 130 tenants.
Can you tell us about your background and how you got into the architecture industry?
As a child I had a natural talent for drawing and designing and an unwavering passion for building sites. I was also inspired by visits to fantastic homes in our family circles, so I decided to pursue architecture as a career. I’ve always been fairly ambitious, and started a drafting business in my second year of university. By the time I was 25, I had met my wife Gail Long through the University and we founded Stoll-Long.
What are you currently working on, and what are your key goals for the future?
We’re currently working on a new boutique apartment development on Collingwood’s Oxford Street, called XO. It’s a seven-storey development with 34 apartments.
We’ve identified a real lack of larger, high-quality apartments in this part of Melbourne. Collingwood is rapidly becoming gentrified as it’s seen as really ‘cool’ by both Gen X and Y but also is a desirable destination for baby boomers. There’s something for everyone there and we want to create really good quality living spaces that are an alternative to the large family home in the suburbs. XO provides 34 large two- and three-bedroom apartments instead of what could have been 60 small one-bedroom units. The apartments are selling quickly which is proof that this typology of housing is in demand.
In terms of the future, we’ve got two main goals. The first is to continue to be very selective and hand-pick our projects, ultimately choosing quality-driven projects. We’d also like to continue supporting social housing in whatever ways we can. The sector is close to our hearts.
You’ve worked on high-end housing, but your passion lies in social housing. Can you tell us why this typology is so important to you?
Upon completing our first social housing projects with the Office of Housing back in the late ’80s, we welcomed the immense gratitude from the residents and clients. Our designs were making a tangible difference in the lives of real Australians, and they truly appreciated their new apartments and houses. It felt good to be helping people, whilst still doing what we loved most.
How did you start work in social housing?
Ultimately it was a strategic move. Upon opening Stoll-Long, we wanted a mix of government and private clients – a business decision that enabled us to cater to both ends of the market and respond to its ups and downs. But working on social projects was so rewarding and fulfilling that we decided to make it an integral aspect of our offerings. For the last 20 years we’ve worked with a number of not-for-profit organisations, designing and developing self-contained studios and small compact apartments aimed to help people get off the street or out of poor quality and unsafe rooming houses and give them somewhere to call home.
What are the key areas that are currently impacting social housing?
Housing affordability is a key driver, along with changes in attitude and government funding. As the affordable housing crisis increases, so too does the demand for social housing, and ultimately, the most marginalised people are left homeless. For the first time in a decade, the State Government in Victoria and NSW are recognising and responding to this crisis with investment in new and existing housing.
Housing can and should be responsive and reflective of the wider society. Income levels and backgrounds should not lead to segregation. We work closely with several housing associations to replace sub-standard accommodation with quality, safe, self-contained apartments for a full cross-section of society (male, female, old and young). These apartments are designed to integrate seamlessly into inner suburban Melbourne with design indistinguishable from their contemporary private housing counterparts.
What do you think is the future of social housing?
Housing diversity and choice is an area of particular interest to us. A notable future trend will be the integration of social and community housing into private housing developments.
What would you say has been the proudest moment or biggest achievement in your career?
In recent times, my most fulfilling project was to design and build our own home. I was able to take extensive time out of the office to do this. It was a highly rewarding and a personal experience for which I have been most grateful. The moments spent designing and creating our own personalised living environment were, without doubt, very enjoyable.
Who/what/where are you inspired by?
My designs are usually inspired by the site and environment, followed by the client’s design brief. A great site provides a wonderful canvas for great architecture. The client and their brief then provides the personality and individuality to make it unique. For these reasons, I love designing buildings on interesting sites – whether they be inner city infill sites like Fitzroy and Collingwood or rural seaside properties on the Mornington Peninsula.
Which space or place in Australia do you wish you had have designed?
There is no singular space in Australia I wish I had designed. There are many wonderful buildings around the world on many incredible sites that I’ve experienced and enjoyed in one way or another. I don’t aspire to design the largest CBD skyscraper or the next Opera House. I simply aspire to work with our great staff to design and build quality buildings and living environments for passionate people who appreciate what good architecture can contribute to daily life.
If you’d like to be featured in Q&ADR, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with a little introduction of yourself.
Read last week’s Q&ADR with award-winning filmmaker Catherine Hunter.