Building Connection: Cumulus Studio On Crafting Award-Winning Architecture Across Australia

What started as four individuals with one residential project and big dreams is now a collaborative workforce distributed across Australia in four studios.

Samantha Frew Samantha Frew

Judging is now underway for the 10th Annual A+Awards Program! Want to earn global recognition for your projects? Sign up to be notified when the 11th Annual A+Awards program launches. 

Having recently celebrated their tenth anniversary, Cumulus Studio is a young practice. Established in 2011, this Tasmania-born business has only grows stronger by the year. What started as four individuals with one residential project and big dreams is now a diverse and distinct collaborative workforce distributed across Australia in four studios — Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, and Adelaide.

Cumulus Studio works in a range of disciplines, although they have distinguished themselves in tourism, social housing and design-led projects in particular. As a practice, they are well known for the collaborative approach that they take to each of their projects, working in teams of mixed specializations and actively encouraging input from external specialists. Thorough workshopping of ideas and initial discussions is the backbone for a program of work that launches with masses of information that can be explored and developed to create concepts that are synergistic to their projects’ culture, heritage, and location. Their specialist process plays a huge part in their distinctiveness and ongoing success.

As Cumulus Studio has regularly been featured in Architizer content and one of the most successful firms in the A+Awards, we spoke with one of the studios four directors, Peter Walker, to discuss the progression of the practice and how winning multiple prestigious awards have helped in the studio’s development and in finding their identity.

Devil’s Corner by Cumulus Studio, Apslawn, Australia; photographs by Tanja Milbourne

Speaking on their first A+Award win, Peter said, “We first entered the A+Awards program with our Devil’s Corner Cellar Door project which we had recently completed and were really proud of. At the time we were a relatively new practice and, being from a small island state at the bottom of the world, we saw the A+Awards as a way of showcasing our projects to a larger audience.”

Devil’s Corner and its cellar door are a unique tourist experience on the East Coast of Tasmania. Sitting on the boundary of one of Tasmania’s most extensive vineyards, the dynamic modular building is a destination spot for many travellers. Timber-clad shipping containers are positioned and fitted out for a host of functions, from wine tasting, food markets and even weddings. As noted by Peter, the unique project is featured regularly in publications for its well-considered design, function and individuality in a market that can sometimes lack expression. The project deservedly won our Jury Award for a Commercial, Mixed Use space in 2017.

Most recently, the team won the Jury Winner A+Award for Cultural and Expo Centres for their project, The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. A stunning piece of geometric work that aimed to honor the significance and sensitivity of the world-renowned Cradle Mountain national park. The project is challenged by its unique and special location. Deep understanding and careful strategy were essential ingredients in their approach, which sought to ensure that the visitor location would be sympathetic to its backdrop while still functioning as a thriving tourist attraction and the attendant heavy footfall.

Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre by Cumulus Studio, Tasmania, Australia, 2021 A+Awards Jury Winner in the Transportation Infrastructure and Cultural & Expo Centers categories; photographs by Anjie Blair 

The building was designed to feel grounded as if carved from a solid rock by a glacier. The form of the umbrella rain-screen was used to reference the folding angular geology of the mountainous site, while the warm, cave-like timber interior has an Alpine-Esque attraction that is familiar in the glacial landscape. The choice of timber for the interior is about the poetics and qualities of the place. It allows visitors to feel connected to the beautiful all around them, evoking an emotive response while moving through the spaces.

When asked about his favorite detail from their latest win, Peter was keen to discuss the roots of the project as well as recognize the collaboration involved in bringing a project like this to life.

“We have now won three A+Awards. Our most recent project, The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, evolved over six years, from an initial feasibility study through Master Planning and the completion of the first stage – the Visitor Services Centre. We worked with artist Alex Miles to create a hanging installation in the main space that interprets the Nothofagus Gunii — Australia’s only cold climate winter deciduous tree and a remnant of the island’s connection to Gondwana. The installation casts shadows and reflects a subtle dappled light, creating texture and depth in the space.”

Goulburn Street Housing by Cumulus Studio, Hobart, Australia; photographs by Adam Gibson

Cumulus Studio has a portfolio of unique and distinct projects which will, without doubt, ensure that they continue to grow, develop and surprise for many years to come. However, I believe it is their confidence in what they do and their trust in their well-established process that continue elevating them above their peers, allowing them to bring us exciting and engaging projects like the past winners they have showcased.

Like me, Peter trusts that the future for Cumulus Studio is one that will be bright and momentous. “A large percentage of the work that Cumulus undertakes is within the tourism industry where architecture has the potential to create a meaningful connection or dialogue with the place, landscape, culture, and/or people. We seek to design unique architecture that emerges from and interprets a deep understanding of place and the way that people experience it.”

He add that, “there are some really exciting projects in the studio at the moment and it is exciting that they are spread across a wide range of budgets, locations and typologies.” It is safe to say that we cannot wait to see the inspiring new places that Cumulus Studio has in the works.

Judging is now underway for the 10th Annual A+Awards Program! Want to earn global recognition for your projects? Sign up to be notified when the 11th Annual A+Awards program launches. 

The Future of Architecture: Is Design for Freedom Starting the Industr y’s Next Paradigm Shift?

Are your building's materials ethically sourced? What if designers thought about embodied labor the way that they think about embodied carbon?

© Square Feet Studio

Three Taverns Imaginarium // Square Feet Studio

Atlanta, GA, United States

+