Pushing the envelope: the rise and rise of Ritz & Ghougassian

Highbury Grove featuring GB Masonry Smooth in Nickel. Photography by Tom Blachford.

An interior designer and an architect join forces with startling early success.

At just three years old, Ritz & Ghougassian could be considered a fledgling practice, but with a swag of awards and much-lauded projects to its name, the Melbourne-based firm seems to possess experience beyond its years.

Last year, Ritz & Ghougassian won prizes for best emerging interior design practice at both the Australian Interior Design Awards and the Interior Design Excellence Awards.

Co-directors Gilad Ritz and Jean-Paul Ghougassian bring a holistic perspective to design with their respective disciplines of architecture and interior design. It’s this two-pronged approach that has imbued many of their projects with a studied maturity.

“We don’t start a project saying, ‘What’s going to look the best?’ It’s very much about habitation and what we see is going to nurture the inhabitants for one point of view,” says Ritz.

“We are looking for truth in the materiality. We approach things with a set of parameters and a set of rules. I think that creates an authentic design.”

It’s this authenticity that has been turning heads since the studio began. Projects have spanned residential – such as the acclaimed Edsall Street House – to commercial, expressed in three cafes: Bentwood in Fitzroy, Penta in Elsternwick, and Morris and Heath in Hoppers Crossing. In all these examples there exists an unwavering loyalty to reductionist architecture and a disciplined adherence to usable space.

Commercial and residential jobs each come with their own set of parameters, says Ritz. “With the commercial work, we’re given an envelope to work within. So we’re lining spaces with materiality and researching joineries to create compartmentalised space. It’s about creating an experience inside one larger volume. In the residential sense, though, we’re creating that envelope. We create everything. The design process goes deeper.”

With Ritz & Ghougassian coming from the complementary frameworks of interior design and architecture, every aspect of a build is critiqued and considered. While Ritz’s discipline is architecture and Ghougassian is an interior designer, Ritz says they’ve found a beneficial crossover in the design process. “We allow one or the other to take the lead on their field, but we don’t necessarily see ourselves as the be-all-and-end-all in our occupant field. There’s a lot of crossover and, in fact, we’re both more critical of each other’s fields.”

He says this often allows them to move quite quickly through a design process. “Architecture and interior design have their own discourses. These definitely overlap, but we bring both of those to the table so we can approach a project in a holistic manner.”

This integrated way of creating extends from the furnishings to the exterior construction materials. Everything dovetails to ensure the best use of space, light and temperature.

Ritz says they have a fondness for masonry and concrete to create what he calls “exterior envelopes”. He cites durability and expansion as reasons for using these materials. “Masonry has some beautiful scientific properties. The thermal mass, whether it’s clay brick or concrete block, means that heat loss or gain is a slower process. We use those things to our advantage,” says Ritz.

Beyond the physical properties of masonry, Ritz & Ghougassian’s choices are also aimed at achieving spaces that work both externally and internally. “From a theoretical point of view, we see architecture as an enveloping medium to allow habitation, and these harder materials accentuate that idea,” says Ritz.

This studio may be young, but it already has an impressive volume of work and a creed that promises to continually sharpen its focus: producing intelligent, deftly crafted and elegantly shaped “envelopes” for living.

View all of Ritz & Ghougassian's projects here.

Learn more about GB Masonry here.

Related Content

View more