Greek-born architect Nondas Katsalidis and co-founder Karl Fender of Fender Katsalidis Architects (FKA) were recently joined by longstanding business partners and friends for the launch of their book Fender Katsalidis: Working Architecture marking the first time the practice’s diverse body of work has been formally documented in one elegantly presented, limited edition publication.
The book traces the rich history of the practice through 31 key projects selected from FKA’s portfolio of works and it provides a rare glimpse into the creative and innovative energy that has come to define FKA as a highly awarded, multi-disciplinary international design firm whose work now influences built environment thinking across the globe.
“We wanted to document some of the developments we have created in the last 25 years, therefore, we selected what we felt would be more architecturally appealing to our readers,” says 66-year-old Nondas Katsalidis in an interview with Neos Kosmos.
Founded on the philosophy of innovation through collaboration, FKA has evolved from a Melbourne-centric architectural practice to one of Australia’s most ground-breaking.
Constructed by FKA, Eureka Tower’s 89th floor was certainly a fitting location for guests to reflect on the firm’s illustrious history, while catching a glimpse of its future.
The distinguished architectural author, critic and Innovation Professor of Architecture at RMIT, Leon van Schaik OA, gave a speech about the discoveries made in understanding the practice, which he wrote about in his revealing narrative in the book.
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) founder David Walsh, whose working relationship with the practice spans almost two decades, also made a rare speaking appearance.
Maitiú Ward, publisher of FKA’s book at Uro Publications also addressed the audience.
According to Katsalidis, a foreword by Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) gold medallist, Peter Wilson and a written contribution from renowned Australian architect and fellow AIA gold medallist Graeme Gunn AM, also provided a long overdue opportunity to consider FKA’s remarkable past, present, and future.
“We feel incredibly honoured to have all those distinguished individuals be part of our first book and we just can’t thank them enough for their contributions and conclusions on how our practice has influenced Australia’s built environments,” says Katsalidis.
With established offices also in Sydney and Brisbane, and an affiliate office in London, FKA employs around 100 people in Australia and 60 in the UK, and is growing its international influence by entering new markets including Indonesia and Malaysia.
A series of key high-controlled profile projects currently underway point to the journey that is to come as FKA continues to shape Melbourne’s city and skyline. Australia 108 is under construction, as well as two 80-storey residential buildings on Queen Street in Melbourne’s CBD (in collaboration with Cox Architecture).
While overseas a landmark tower by FKA in Kuala Lumpur is set to become the world’s fifth tallest building, landmarking the city’s important Stadium Merdeka precinct.
“The success of the practice has been driven by the firm’s ability to move with the commercial realities of our time and by its innovative and collaborative approach to architecture through working closely with forward-thinking developers across a range of sectors,” says Katsalidis.
FKA has shaped and enhanced the quality of Melbourne’s architecture and the same is often said of FKA’s designs in other places such as Tasmania, with the practice’s design for MONA firmly placing Hobart on the world stage as a global cultural destination.
“We started in the mid-1990s and since then we have worked very hard and we have collected many awards and [much] recognition along the way for our design and innovative approach in building environments, but ultimately, it’s the people that have the final say as to whether they like what we do or not.
“From our end, we have tried to stay true to our vision in creating interesting architectural work with a design that we feel fits the location and the climate of each of the projects and we are just excited that people can finally look through a book, study our products and come to their own conclusions,” says Katsalidis who despite an intense and certainly heavy schedule, still finds the time to visit his birthplace, Greece.
“My parents are both Greek and I was born there so I try and visit every four to five years but if you ask me, I will tell you it’s not often enough.
“My father was born in Epeiros and my mother comes from Corinth. After the war they both moved to Athens and I was born there. My family migrated to Australia in 1956 when I was five years old, therefore I do speak some Greek but I wish I spoke the language better. Truth is, I don’t speak it very often in Australia,” says Katsalidis who doesn’t believe there is a secret to FKA’s success other than working hard and producing original work.
“Sometimes I feel that we live in a strange country, but truth is, we are very lucky to be in Australia. In my opinion, overall, we have had more ups than downs and the Australian economy has been going up since the last recession. Given how popular this country is due to its location and because of Asia, I feel property development and construction is already growing too fast for my liking, especially in Melbourne, but what we try and always do at FKA is take one step at a time, stay focused to what lays ahead of us and concentrate on delivering a great product before moving to our next venture.
“In our firm we like diversity, so we make sure every product we deliver, irrespective of size and location, is unique in its design and structure.
“We never rest and we ensure we never repeat ourselves,” concludes Katsalidis.
‘Fender Katsalidis: Working Architecture’ is available for purchase from Uro Publications.