A simple philosophy delivers success

Karyn Starmer 29 October 2020
Ross Norwood at work in office at DNA Architects.

DNA Architects partner Ross Norwood has a focus on using environmentally sustainable design principals. Photo: Supplied.

On meeting Ross Norwood and Glen Dowse it’s easy to see that this pair of award-winning architects has spent a lot of time together. But beneath the easy banter between them, a sharp-eyed dedication to both the practical and creative soon emerges.

The founding partners of DNA Architects met at University of Canberra during a time, they say, when UC Architecture was a free-flowing creative utopia for young students.

“Our particular year group was very close,” says Ross. “We were in an open studio environment and encouraged to work collaboratively. That style of working is something that has stayed with us throughout our professional life.”

On finishing university, Ross and Glen went their separate ways, travelling and working on both residential and commercial projects in Australia and overseas.


READ ALSO: Canberra architect has a focus on the future and it fits him to a T


Then in 2001, with both of them back working in Canberra, Glen invited Ross for dinner to chat about an idea he had. The rest, as they say, is history, including Ross meeting his future wife: Glen’s wife’s sister.

“Glen pitched the idea of a partnership to me over dinner and I resigned from the firm I was working at the next day,” says Ross. “We started the business two weeks later.”

With already well established local contacts, a large builder offered the new firm some starting projects and they were off.

“We worked hard,” says Glen. “Cash flow was tight and at one stage we had just one day off in 14 weeks.”

Ross and Glen say that from the start they wanted to focus on regionally inspired architectural values using environmentally sustainable design principals.

“We are very much aware of the legacy of good design,” says Ross. “During the years, we have gained a reputation for quality by consistently striving for the best answer rather than the easy one.

“We also understand the constraints of budgets, time and location. It just doesn’t work if you present an amazing design to a client and then compromise it down to suit the budget or site.

“Our aim is to create and transform spaces that are as unique as our clients. Our job is to bring our client’s vision to life. There is no cookie cutter system.

“To achieve that, you have to listen to what the client wants and then apply our creative expertise to bring their vision to life.”

Glen Dowse and Ross Norwood.

Glen Dowse (left) and Ross Norwood (right) have known each other since their days studying architecture at University of Canberra. Photo: Supplied.

DNA Architects has been designing residential, commercial and retail projects of all sizes for almost 20 years. The firm has grown to a team of 16, including new partner AJ Bala.

Ross and Glen attribute the success of their practice to the development of strong, lasting relationships with their clients and staff as much as creating award-winning architectural designs.

“Our aim is to ensure the design and building process is enjoyable for everyone,” says Glen.

Keeping their staff happy is also high on the agenda.

“As much as we are committed to ensuring our clients are 100 per cent happy with our service, we’re equally committed to keeping our staff happy,” says Ross. “We are very much a family here.”

Apartment building designed by DNA Architects.

DNA Architects has earned multiple industry awards. Photo: Supplied.

Ross and Glen say they have purposefully created a work culture that attracts and retains likeminded professionals. They have also continued the collaborative studio style of work they enjoyed at university.

“We still ask each other to cast an eye over our individual work,” says Ross. “That second set of eyes will often solve a problem or spark a creative idea.”

It’s these collective qualities that have earned DNA Architects multiple industry awards and a client base that is primarily made up of repeat business customers and referrals.

“We always take the time to get to know our clients,” says Glen. “We study the potential and limitations of the site and explore every creative avenue before arriving at a design solution.

Ross explains that the DNA Architects philosophy is simple.

“Our simple philosophy is to create unique designs that reflect the individual needs and characteristics of our clients,” he says.

Glen agrees: “We don’t push a particular design style or theory,” he says. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we are very deliberate and particular about our craft.

“This philosophy is applied to every architectural project we design from residential to commercial and retail because, at the end of the day, we create spaces that people use to live, work and play in. The better the design, the better their experience will be.”

To find out more, visit DNA Architects.


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