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AR_EA Australia: Jesse Bennett

‘We’re surrounded by striking natural beauty - I enjoy the relative lack of a design scene’

Where are you based, what city?
Cairns, tropical Far North Queensland.

What kind of work do you do?
Residential architecture and interior design, but this is expanding into restaurants and retail. We also have a range of handcrafted timber fittings.

What’s it like being an architect where you are?
Challenging and rewarding. We’re surrounded by striking natural beauty, and I enjoy the relative lack of a ‘design’ scene so I can focus on my own style.

What is the context in which you are working?
Cairns is geographically insulated from Australia’s major centres. With a population of just 142,000, Cairns has a low socio-economic status and salaries are below the national average. So land and house prices are cheaper, and attractive not only to residents, but to interstate and international buyers. Cairns is still developing architecturally, with few buildings of note.


The raw simplicity of the Planchonella House in Queensland embraces the surrounding rainforest

What inspires you?
Cairns – from the rainforests around my office to the pristine beaches where we sketch. Travel – which influences my designs: materials, colours and formations. And product design – Italian motorcycles, coffee machines and musical instruments.

What project are you most proud of and why?
Planchonella House, my home designed with my wife Anne-Marie (an interior designer). Managing site and budget was challenging, but we had total design freedom. When I look back, such as at the hand-placed gabion walls we built over a horrid tropical summer, I’m so proud I finished the job.

What is unique about your work?
The detail and inclusion of custom concepts. I push ideas, budgets and expectations. For example, creating custom glass shower flues in bathrooms, or curved sliding doors. I like to have joinery and components made on-site.

What is your favourite building material?
Timber: the warmth, texture and ability to age with the space.

What would be your ideal project?
Hospitality design, in particular cafés and restaurants. A hotel and bar in Italy or Greece would be amazing!

What do you want to be remembered for?
Joyful spaces that enrich daily life.

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