Being one of the oldest architecture practices in the world, Bates Smart has a very impressive 162-year history! It’s safe to say they’re one of the most respected in Australia. With projects spanning from the Australian Embassy in Berlin, the Crown Towers Hotel at City of Dreams in Macau and the New Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne (which alone won a whopping 23 awards!), no project is too large.
Jeff Copolov is one man who knows this all too well. As Bates Smart’s interior design director, he leads a team of 45. Working at the firm for the last 20 years, he joined after a stint as a set designer at the ABC and Channel 9, before deciding interiors was the way he wanted to go.
Working across commercial, health, hospitality and residential, Jeff believes Bates Smart’s point of difference is their ability to fuse interior design with architecture: “In our office, we deliberately don’t have one floor with interior designers on it and one with architects,” explains Jeff. “In fact, we see that as a fundamental part of how we do our interiors; it’s a seamless process where interior designers are on the job from literally day one. They’re not decorators, they’re interior architects, first and foremost that’s really what they are.”
An acclaimed interior designer in his own right, Jeff took out the IDEA Gold Medal in 2013 and won IDEA Designer of the Year in 2010. And while he has worked on a myriad of projects (he normally overseas 20 at a time!), Jeff always finds his latest projects the most exciting. “I know it’s a corny line and everyone says that their latest projects are always the most interesting, but it’s true. It keeps your mind active and if you become jaded by it, you might as well give up.”
Currently working on such projects as a nursing home, a high-end multi-residential project called 35 Spring Street, Heston Blumenthal’s latest restaurant at The Crown and the new Club Stand for the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington, Jeff loves that design allows him to explore areas he previously knew little about. “The great beauty of working as an interior designer or architect is that you get a glimpse and an insight into the workings of a diverse range of organisations,” says Jeff. “I didn’t know much about nursing homes before, but now I know a lot more about the people, how it works, what the priorities are and what the health department is after.”
While Jeff does find it hard to name a favourite project, he does admit he’d be remiss not to mention the New Royal Children’s Hospital. “We produced a really outstanding product that changed the way people looked at hospitals,” explains Jeff. “We really looked at the recuperative benefits of natural healing through the introduction of the natural environment. So we brought in a lot of natural light, soft colours of the landscape and a lot of courtyards. As much as possible, we tried to bring in the benefits and healing processes of nature into the hospital and make it a nurturing and relaxing environment.”
Working on such large projects from the initial masterplans to the final soft furnishings, Jeff sees the high calibre of projects he gets to be a part of as the biggest benefit of working for Bates Smart. With a style that is contemporary, forward-looking and clear of any gimmicks, all of their work is of the highest quality, which is why Jeff believes they continue to win such exciting projects. “I think we also have a strong niche: a combination of architectural rigour, relentless attention to detail and producing interiors of lasting quality. I think our interiors feel significant, they have substance and depth and I think that speaks for itself.”