The Full Spectrum – Ritz&Ghougassian

Words by Millie Thwaites
Photography by Tom Ross
Ritz&ghougassian Issue 08 Feature The Local Project Image (1)

Architecture and interior design practice Ritz&Ghougassian leans heavily towards the utilitarian, doing away with ornament and simplifying forms. And while that leads to a certain crispness, the practice’s work, which spans private and public sectors, prioritises warmth and tactility. Led by Directors Jean-Paul Ghougassian and Gilad Ritz, the studio’s approach focuses on deeply considered principles they seek to realise with resolve.

Starting their Melbourne-based practice in 2015, Gilad says, “we realised that we saw design outcomes as being successful or unsuccessful in a very similar way – we judged it by the same parameters.” With Gilad’s background in architecture and Jean-Paul’s in interiors, their approach has always balanced between the two. The early days saw the duo focus primarily on their respective fields, however, today “it’s much more amalgamated,” Gilad says. “These days we both think across the spectrum and overlap with each other more than we ever have.”

Habitability plays a big role in the starting point,” Jean-Paul says, adding, “it’s very much about how people will engage with a space and the interiority of a building.”

Gilad’s background in architecture and Jean-Paul’s in interiors means the practice’s approach has always been balanced, however in recent years, the pair have experienced – and enjoyed – more overlap than ever before.

As the pair notes, each project – be it a workplace, a hospitality venue or a private residential dwelling – begins with the same conversation. “Habitability plays a big role in the starting point,” Jean-Paul says, adding, “it’s very much about how people will engage with a space and the interiority of a building.” This conversation ultimately guides the design intent of a project, with the outcomes for a public space proving vastly different to those of a private space.

As Jean-Paul explains, while the core tenets of the practice will always drive their approach, it is moulded and shaped by the human experience. “When we’re designing a home – whether it’s an apartment or a whole house – there’s usually a very specific client that we’re trying to tailor that piece of architecture to,” he says. “But when we consider a workplace, it’s often a group of individuals with many different requirements.”

While the practice’s work is defined by a pared-back utilitarian aesthetic, haptics and light are key to their approach, and resultingly, each of their projects expresses warmth and tactility.

Referencing the reductionist quality of the practice’s work, Gilad cites materiality, light and space as being key. “We always question whether something is necessary or whether it’s overdone, so when you pull everything back like that, you’re dealing with an environment that’s inherently about light, volume and the connection of spaces.” The two agree that while “monumentality” is often an outcome of their work, it’s not a driver. Both Jean-Paul and Gilad seek tactility, exploring the haptic qualities of a space in detail. They recall the quality of surfaces they specified for the workplace of visualisation practice MR.P, which included stainless steel, rattan wrapped furniture and a silk rug. “We designed door handles, window frames and furniture because it’s all about touch,” Gilad says. “It doesn’t matter that it’s not a residence, it’s important that someone feels those qualities across the sectors.”

Jean-Paul and Gilad’s belief in the importance of tactility and form infiltrates their work. To encounter one of their spaces is to experience architecture in an honest state; there are no frills or noise, just captivating volumes and considered materiality working as one.