Master of Invention - Henry Sgourakis | Feature Article
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Liz Barrett

Master of invention, Henry Sgourakis, tells us why diversity and adaptability are keys to success when working across multiple disciplines.

Many of us are familiar with the demands of working across a multitude of projects, none more so than Henry Sgourakis. Following in the footsteps of his father and mentor Peter Sgourakis, Henry initially made a name for himself as a talented director of architecture as part of the team at Sgourakis Architects.

‘’I’ve always admired my father Pete. To this day he still hand-sketches his drawings and has an incredible flair and eye for detail. I’m fortunate that I have the opportunity to learn the trade from one of the best. I spent many of my weekends as a kid shadowing him around building sites.’’

Father and son have worked together during the past 10 years in different capacities but, like every great partnership, have found ways to complement each other’s skill sets. ‘’We’re quite different, but the fusion of new school and old school seems to work for us and our clients. Together we have grown the business by modernising operations. We are fortunate to have new clients that have allowed us to build a diverse repertoire of buildings while continuing to work with some clients that have been with Sgourakis Architects for 40 years. We challenge each other but all in the name of elevating the work to the highest standard possible.’’

Henry comes from a creative family and was not just inspired by his father. Henry reminisces, ‘’I spent a large part of my childhood in my mum’s pottery studio and I was always tinkering. I developed an interest in my teens in design and my sister took me to a design exhibition in Sydney and I was hooked.’’

Before joining the family practice, he undertook a Masters of Furniture Design at the Politecnico di Milano and combines a background in furniture and industrial design with his Masters of Architecture. ‘’Jumping into a degree in Industrial Design, I took a diverse approach, wanting to learn to design in different disciplines. Knowing I wanted to be in furniture I took myself over to Milan to study for a period where I had an incredible learning and life experience. It was the best thing I ever did.’’

This passion for furniture design, along with a profound understanding of spatial interactions, led Henry to design furniture and interior products for a range of design firms, including a furniture collection By Henry for Arthur G.

The By Henry collection was inspired by Henry’s love of modernism and consists of a range of commercially inspired seating options designed with real residential applications in mind. These pieces have enduring design qualities and have been thoughtfully designed to work with the existing Arthur G furniture collections. By Henry is a highly intuitive collection relevant for contemporary living.

‘’I’ve known Leonard from Arthur G for years now, and we’ve become very close friends. We have watched each other’s careers develop and Leonard has always been a great supporter of my work. The collaboration came about quite organically. He mentioned he was looking to expand the Arthur G collection, so as a gesture, I sketched up a few ideas. A single chair soon became a collection, a family of chairs that could sit amongst the established Arthur G range.’’

Adding to his work at Sgourakis Architects and designing a collection with Arthur G, Henry is also the founder of Melbourne-based design studio, Henry + Pi.

‘‘I am a total perfectionist, but it’s a labour of love – I happily spend hours honing in on the most intricate of details to ensure everything I do is of the utmost quality. I don’t believe in cutting corners as it always ends up being exposed in the final product.’’

Henry is also keenly aware of the importance of being environmentally sustainable and being an ecologically conscious creative, ensuring that he considers this throughout the design and manufacture process. ‘’A product’s impact on the environment stems from how its materials are sourced, produced and transported, and follows to its manufacturing process, logistics and end life. When creating well-considered sustainable furniture, it is critical to ensure the highest quality of construction is maintained in order to prolong the product’s life. This subsequently reduces the environmental impact of replacing furniture frequently. The concept of ‘fast furniture’ doesn’t help anyone. A chair should withstand the test of time and have the opportunity to be handed down or on-sold.’’

Henry seems in his element working across so many projects, getting the most out of his working day. ‘’There are no two days the same but my day often starts with on-site visits to check on the progress of live constructions. Then I get into the office to run through the status of all projects, guiding the team and troubleshooting as necessary. I provide creative direction to ensure all projects have a signature, a unique and considered design. This is followed by a working lunch meeting with clients and later I spend time in the afternoon sketching and working on designs in both Sgourakis Architects and Henry+Pi.’’

Henry seems quite adept at juggling so much at once . ‘’I’m very proud of all of the projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on so far, in the different disciplines I’ve managed to work in. So I have come to realise that having a diverse range of projects of various scales fluctuating through numerous stages, it’s vital to be organised but agile at the same time.’’

Lillie Thompson