Architect Spotlight: Jayson Blight

Architect Spotlight: Jayson Blight

Queensland’s pre-eminent commercial architect discusses his hands-on approach and his ongoing enthusiasm for brick.

Jayson Blight rose to prominence as Design Director at Cox Rayner Architects, leading high-profile projects including the Queensland State Velodrome and the National Maritime Museum of China. In 2016, he co-founded a new firm with colleague Michael Rayner, Blight Rayner; the pair quickly picked up significant commissions, including the New Performing Arts Venue at South Bank, a co-design with Norwegian architects Snøhetta. Jayson is passionate about craftsmanship and recently led a Brickworks inDETAIL event at the Brickworks Design Studio in Brisbane. Below, he reflects on the state of architecture in Queensland and explains why brick appeals to him.

What led to the formation of Blight Rayner in 2016? 

I was at Cox Rayner for 22 years with Michael Rayner. In that time, we saw what was initially a small practice within Queensland grow into a firm of 400 people nationally. Eventually, we both reached a point where we wanted to simplify and get back to practising architecture for the love of architecture. We wanted to be at the coalface of the building process, rather than managing a large practice.

Your family’s own home, a renovated and extended worker’s cottage named Aperture House, has won several awards. What do you think makes the renovation successful? 

Firstly, it connects to landscape. It allows what was a gangly Queenslander to terrace down through some strategic level changes to actually anchor and hunker down into the landscape. That gave us the ability to connect to what is a significant backyard by inner-city standards. Secondly, it shows how generosity of space can be achieved through large volumes rather than footprint. The house itself is no greater than 150 square metres, but the light and volume give you that sense of space.

The home’s extension is crafted from a mix of Bowral Bricks and reclaimed Austral kiln bricks. What does the choice of brick contribute to the project? 

Brick is very light reactive: it changes all the time, not just throughout the day but also through the seasons. It gives the house an ever-dynamic quality. We were also very interested in the negative space – that is, the mortar – between the brick and how it could be used to explore pattern and depth. We found that by minimising the negative space, we could make brick walls appear three-dimensional.

You’ve used brick on a number of large-scale buildings, too. What does masonry bring to commercial projects? 

What we like about brick is that it gives a building a sense that it is made by hand. That sense of craft is very important to us.

How has commercial architecture in Brisbane evolved in recent years? 

In Queensland, we’re incredibly lucky with our environment in that we can easily be connected to the outside and to landscape. Our architects have always embraced the environment in their smaller-scale architecture, however not so much in the large commercial context. But now we are seeing new commercial buildings become a lot more porous, with outdoor workspaces, balconies and ledges with lush subtropical landscaping. We are seeing façades that open up to allow breezes through. 

What else is changing?

Our architects are also exploring light and shadow in large scale. We’re seeing depth to façades, we’re seeing shading devices, we’re seeing recesses and ledges. These features are all creating this drama of light reaction.

Have you watched our instalment of inDETAIL, our architectural speaker series, with Jayson? Be sure to watch it here.
For more information on Jayson Blight be sure to read his story available on Daily Architecture News.
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