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About
Steffen Welsch Architects

Our Approach

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Why do we make buildings? For shelter, community, agency; to come together or for solitude; and to express and celebrate beauty. In all this, architecture is background. Architecture is the framework to the lives within, not the hero. It’s well-designed and cared for so that it enables its occupants, creates memories, and fosters social opportunities, as well as retreat. It must be personalised – whether it’s a home, school, or community centre – because it is the built expression of those within. It mustn’t harm the environment because that’s simply shortsighted. We aim for longevity rather than expensive, short-term gain. We once received a telling message from a client’s friend: “I like what you did with Paul’s house so much they can’t kick me out at the end of the night!” Perhaps annoying to those who want to go to bed, none-the-less this sentiment we took as a resounding endorsement. It expresses our belief that buildings should be background to allow us to enjoy and sustain life.

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Director & Architect

Steffen Welsch

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Growing up in East Germany, Steffen liked buildings but was always more interested in the environment as a whole – social, economic, political, built and natural. As a child, he wanted to be a zoologist. As these things happen, at 16, Steffen and his best friend took an aptitude test for architecture at the former Bauhaus School in Weimar. The test preparation tasked Steffen with pencil drawings of his favourite band (Led Zeppelin) and to read a book about Lyonel Feininger (an American-German artist and former Bauhaus teacher). Both Steffen and his friend passed the test, and ended up at Weimar, not knowing that it was the birthplace of one of the most influential art and architecture movements of the 20th century. Its mission resonated well with Steffen then and still influences his work today: architecture is part of the “Gesamtkunstwerk” and only one part of our complex environment. Read more about Steffen at the Australian Design Review.

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Architect

Fiona Winzar

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Having spent 12 years as Principal Architect for the award-winning Fred Architecture (previously Fiona Winzar Architects), Fiona brings considerable design and management expertise to Steffen Welsch Architects. Recognised by her peers for a highly personalised, site specific, sustainable approach to architecture, Fiona has found a team of kindred spirits at the practice. Prior to joining Steffen Welsch Architects, Fiona taught architecture, design and construction subjects at university level for more than a decade. This, combined with extensive experience in private practice, has rendered Fiona a natural mentor for her colleagues at Steffen Welsch Architects, while taking a design lead on projects practice-wide. Fiona credits her childhood spent surfing, bushwalking and exploring the natural world along the Queensland south coast with shaping her passion for sustainability. These days, she finds cooking another creative outlet.

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Architectural technologist

Donal Coffey

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“That’s great. But will it work?” On site, Donie is a gifted problem solver, always challenging and testing the real-world application of Steffen Welsch Architects’ designs. As an architectural technologist, he demonstrates an encyclopaedic knowledge of engineering requirements, which match his ample design talents in the studio. Joining the practice soon after immigrating from Ireland, Donie found the practice a perfect fit for his focus on sustainable design. As the longest serving member of staff, he has had a hand in the realisation of the vast majority of Steffen Welsch Architects’ projects. Donie’s firm friendships with clients and colleagues prove his commitment to collaboration in the pursuit of best practice architecture. He takes great pleasure from sharing the best ideas with other members of staff, and relishes working closely with builders, councils and consultants.

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Architect

Mariam Sher Muhammad

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Architecture is a study in careful observation for Mariam. Working as a sole practitioner architect in Pakistan for five years, she would visit clients in their homes and pay close attention to their stories and dreams. At Steffen Welsch Architects, she has explored this empathic approach further, unlocking design challenges in ways that resonate deeply for individual family members while also addressing their collective needs. Mariam has found the culture of learning at Steffen Welsch Architects a great fit with her progressive approach to design and education. She is an active member of the ARCASIA Council of Young Architects and Council for Architectural Education, having represented Pakistan at regional summits in 2013 and 2015. Taking time to reflect is important to Mariam, so she reads the Quran and poetry for meditation.

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Architect

Peter Way

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Growing up on a farm in northern NSW, Peter learned the importance of making and mending. These early experiences helped shape him into a resourceful, can-do architect, with a particularly strong focus on designing responsibly for Australian conditions. With a background in computer science, Peter is at home with detail and data. This thoroughness, combined with his diplomatic approach, naturally puts Steffen Welsch Architects’ clients at ease during planning and construction stages. An instinctive leader and team player, he capably contributes to the coordination of various projects at Steffen Welsch Architects while acting as a reliable brains trust for other members of staff. Peter is known for his eclectic music taste and unofficial role as Steffen Welsch Architects’ resident DJ. When he’s not exploring the globe, he enjoys spending his holidays back at the family farm.

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Architect

Nicole Doedens

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Nicole delights in finding ways to stir feeling through architecture, having examined best practice international approaches to residential design for those experiencing dementia through her studies at the University of Melbourne. Materials, texture and light shape her focus, and she uses these to best effect, elevating the domestic experience for clients at Steffen Welsch Architects. During her studies, Nicole’s thoughtful and expressive designs caught the eye of MONA museum founder David Walsh. After graduating, she was invited by the entrepreneur to design early concepts for the art and tourism empire’s further expansion. This experience shaped her skill in the early design phase, when client trust is formed and ideas are explored. With a background in fine art, Nicole maintains her passion for painting and travels home to Tasmania to visit family and friends whenever possible.

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Architectural Graduate

Adam Pehar

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Adam is fascinated with new technologies and how they apply to architecture. With extensive experience in prototyping, he brings a highly tactile approach to design at Steffen Welsch Architects, and a curiosity with how building materials are made and, ultimately, perform. Adam’s first professional role included model-making for March Studio. Soon after, he co-managed the fabrication and assembly of thousands of terracotta pots in the iconic, wave-like suspended ceiling feature for Gazi restaurant in Melbourne. At Steffen Welsch Architects, Adam manages a variety of project tasks, from design and documentation through to research into new materials and systems, and how these continue to advance SWA’s sustainable design efforts. Outside of work, when he is not sculpting or carving something, Adam is known for his voracious consumption of films and love of live music.

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Architecture student

Eilidh Ross

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How can the design of our buildings be a force for social and environmental justice? Eilidh explores this focus with a likeminded team at Steffen Welsch Architects, discovering ways buildings can be made more inclusive and accessible, as well as ecologically sustainable. Eilidh’s strengths in 3D computer modelling and building scale models help bring Steffen Welsch Architects’ projects to life for clients before construction. She enjoys the process of making, and seeing how these tools can bridge the gap between the architect’s vision and the client’s understanding of how their project will be realised. Outside the office, music has been a lifelong passion for Eilidh, having played orchestral violin since she was seven. As a member of the Exaudi Youth Choir for just as long, she once had the honour of performing at the Commonwealth Games.

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