Tell us a bit about yourself and Palace Electric.
Essentially I am Palace Electric. I like to think of it as being the monocle to which I work under and is conceived as a series of projects that are architecturally crafted by hand, one singular project at a time by myself... it's about the art of building, leaving the excesses of architecture and over design and finding a new world where it can exist, an act of something that exists between craft and architecture.
How did you get started in design & architecture?
Early on I started with doing draughting but needed more so went on to get an Architecture degree. After working in London, Sydney and then finally NZ I was becoming aware that I needed a new challenge, something that allowed me more freedom to make what I wanted to make and learn what I needed to learn. I often now look back and think of what I am currently making is my therapy towards architecture. It can be such a rewarding thing if only it is really allowed to flourish creatively.
What are your design ethos?
I believe that you shouldn't be able to design or be an architect if you don't know how something works or is made. Making and understanding is an important part of what I do and can inform so much, so it's important to treat it as a design tool. I think that you have to take responsibility for what you create ... don't rely on someone else to make it, think of how you can make it.
What are your biggest design challenges?
My challenges are opportunities to learn something new. I enjoy the moments when a curve ball comes my way and in that moment often the best comes out me as I like the explosion of ideas to get around any issues.
Who are your biggest design influencers?
People that create anything and just put themselves out there to be judged. For me, this often comes from other arts and not necessarily architecture. So it's really a way of thinking that's important. Recently I have had the opportunity to start a friendship up with NZ artist Martin Poppelwell and have really enjoyed the way that he always keeps me on my toes and makes me aware that I always need to question myself at every step. Architecture wise though I love the work of Forstberg Ling, a Swedish firm that just seem to make the simple so beautiful.
What is your favourite project to date?
Always seems to be the last one I have crafted, or currently live in. So for me, it is the Shearing Shed.
George & Willy Fire Lighter
What do you think is the key to good design?
Keep your ideas simple and uncomplicated. Remove the unnecessary and follow your concept through every stage of the process and keep your rigger or thought always on what it is you are doing. Also, don't be completely set in your ways at the beginning as a project should also be able to be used as a design tool to shape what it is you are doing.
Which George and Willy products do you have? How does this fit into your daily routine?
We have the Fire Lighter and love it so much. Relying on fireplaces to heat is essential to me and there is nothing nicer than the art of lighting a fire and just watching its glow and feeling its warmth.
How do you stay creative and keep your spaces inspiring?
I guess I am incredibly lucky as the places I make are for myself and young family, so I live in the spaces that I have made, in a weird way I look at them as being very personal and represent everything that I am. It's a very special feeling for me. Inspiration also comes from constantly reading, listening to music, and by surrounding myself with objects from other creative people.
What can we plan to see next from Palace Electric?
Not sure where I plan to end up after just finishing off the Shearing Shed. There are a few ideas floating around, but I am intrigued currently with the art of making something to use or be used, so I have been looking at the beauty of joints. There are a few pieces of furniture that I have been thinking about, of course, made one piece at a time but completely by hand.
You can see more of Ben's work here.
All images by Samuel Hartnett