Richard Leplastrier is a seminal figure in Australian architecture and architectural education. He eschews publicity and his built works are secret treasures to be discovered only by those privileged enough to be introduced to them. His sensitivity to issues of culture and place and his accumulated wisdom in the design and making of architecture is gently revealed though his tutorial sessions in the design studio. He received national recognition in 1999 through the award of the Gold Medal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Richard has received international recognition through receipt of the 2004 ‘Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award’. The award, established in Finland by the Wood in Culture Association, is granted every second year for architectural excellence. Other recipients of the Award include 2000 Renzo Piano, Kengo Kuma, Peter Zumthor, José Cruz Ovalle from Chile and in 2010 to Hermann Kaufmann. He has been awarded the Dreyer Foundation Prize of Honour 2009 in Denmark, the first time an architect from outside Denmark has received this prize.
“How little do we need? The winner of The Dreyer Foundation Prize of Honor ’09, Richard Leplastrier, has asked himself this question many times in his long career. Richard Leplastrier is renowned and recognized for only using resources close by in an endeavor to minimize the impact on the environment as much as possible. His favorite material is wood—preferably recycled and veneer—and in principle, many of his designs can be taken apart and used again and again. In the words of architect and Dreyer Foundation board member Lene Tranberg, his architecture is an ‘Ode to nature.’”
Dreyer Foundation, 2009
“His architecture is an ode to nature. With roots in the ancient aboriginal culture of leaving no traces behind, Richard Leplastrier asks fundamental questions about our conception of ‘existence.’ His architecture interprets and explores the notion of the primal shed through simple, minimal constructions in which alcoves, sleeping niches, work desks, and dining spaces are worked and reworked, taking on the minimal, multi-functional character of a ship’s interior. All his buildings offer intriguing and insightful interpretations of natural ventilation, solar shading, and the tectonic accommodation of the changing weather and seasons.”
Lene Tranberg Board Member, 2009 (the full citation can be downloaded as a pdf at the foot of this page)
“He may not, at first glance, be an obvious person to give this sort of award. He has always shied away from visbility and fame, leading his own life according to his own modest needs and venturing in his work only to do things he has felt to be really important or necessary, without any sideways glances towards superficial matters like style or fame or magazines, publications, interviews and public appearances. On his mainly one-man trail in architecture he has revered the Australian aboriginal culture base, and has a profound respect for all living matter. In giving the award to Richard Leplastrier, the jury wants to stress the honesty and humbleness in his approach to life – which is reflected in his architecture. He relates to people, the landscape, materials and nature in the same way, always with a wish to understand, respect and preserve. Leplastrier has a deeply rooted minimalistic approach to his work. He makes no unnecessary moves. Less is always more. He believes in simplified spaces that give room for things to happen and for nature to enter.”
Gunnel Aldercreutz, Jury Chair, Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award 2004.
“Richard Leplastrier grew up in Perth, Hobart and Sydney. He studied architecture at the University of Sydney. He worked for Jørn Utzon 1964 – 66 and spent 18 months in Kyoto studying traditional Japanese architecture with Professor Masuda Tomoya. Through nearly 30 years of practice he has been fascinated by the origins of human settlement and the ‘essentials’ of living. His unique contribution to architecture was recognised by the award of the RAIA Gold Medal 1999. He has been an inspiring teacher and has had a significant impact on many younger architects. He has designed lightweight timber boats and is an accomplished sailor. Leplastrier’s mostly domestic buildings demand an involvement with place and encourage a sense of reality of the present moment.”
Partly edited from Rory Spence, Architecture Australia, Melbourne, RAIA, Vol.88, No.1, Jan/Feb 1999, p.58
“It is not possible to summarise Richard Leplastriers contribution to architecture because it extends beyond the built work. He is an educator, craftsperson, facilitator and inspiration to all who meet him.”
Peter Stutchbury, Architecture Australia, Melbourne, RAIA, Vol.88, No.1, Jan/Feb 1999, p.58
“There is a growing movement in Australian architecture that stems from a recognition of the uniqueness of this land. A recognition of the indigenous culture’s management of this continent for tens of thousands of years, and that this embodied knowledge forms a powerful cultural base for our future development. A recognition also, that it was this very land that formed their society in the first place, and that this land has primacy in forging of our character.”
Richard Leplastrier, in Philip Drew, Peter Stutchbury – Architectural Monograph, Balmain, Pesaro, 2000, p.7.
“Leplastrier is more of a rationalist, creating buildings born of consonance between the aesthetic, structure and function …. Richard Leplastrier is an ardent sailor and the logic and beauty of the finesse and economy of boat design has played a large part in his architecture. The teachings of two men, Jørn Utzon from Denmark and Tomoya Masuda from Japan, have been inspirational for his architecture. Leplastrier worked with Utzon during the time of the design of the Sydney Opera House …. Leplastrier’s friendship with Masuda developed through their association in Australia and Japan. During this time he worked with Masuda in Kyoto and Kenzo Tange in Tokyo.”
Jennifer Taylor, Australian Architecture Since 1960, Canberra, RAIA, 1990, p.175.
“Leplastrier has developed a deep appreciation of the philosophical basis and means of realisation of form of traditional Japanese design. Oriental philosophy also tempers his outlook on life and, in particular, his understanding of the meaning and role of shelter. Leplastrier is an individualist and his personality pervades his work. He is also a perfectionist. Typical is his insistence of site studies for his buildings. To ensure the desired relationship of levels and openings to the landforms and views the houses are first laid out on the site with poles and string. Following adjustments to the design, construction commences.”
Jennifer Taylor, Australian Architecture Since 1960, Canberra, RAIA, 1990, p.175.
“Richard’s architecture sits like a garment in the landscape, a pleasure to experience, concerned with personal place and a respect for the land. Invariably there exists a legible connection between a building’s ease and its integration of wooden parts. The timber assembly, systems, purpose and finishes are intuitively and energetically assessed, each relating ultimately to the function. These buildings are restful, the silence that bestows his work is reminiscent of a temple where the mind is given opportunity to overtake the body and touch on thoughts beyond memory”.
Peter Stutchbury, in Richard Leplastrier – Spirit of Wood Architecture Award 2004, Petri Neuvonen and Kristina Lehtimaki Editors, Rakennustieto Oy, Helsinki, 2004.
Publications on the work of Richard Leplastrier include the book “Richard Leplastrier – Spirit of Wood Architecture Award 2004”, edited by Petri Neuvonen and Kristiina Lehtimaki, published by Rakennustieto Oy, Finland, 2004 and various journal articles including ‘Architecture and Place’ by Peter Stutchbury and Rory Spence in Architecture Australia, January/February 1999, pp.56-63 and ‘Murcutt and Company’ by Lindsay Johnston in Architecture magazine (USA) April 2003, pp.70-77.
Click here to download and read the full citation of the 2009 Dreyer Foundation prize.
Richard Leplastrier Movies
Richard Leplastrier in Maori architect John Scott’s Futuna Chapel - lecture 2011, New Zealand