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Alex Symes (’00), pictured here with his office sidekick and friend, established a career in architecture, specialising in passive solar energy design. Credit: Elin Bandmann Photography

Energetic Architecture. Profile: Alex Symes

Alex Symes (’00), son of Douglas Symes (’63), brother of Andrew Symes (’93) and nephew of Peter Symes (’65), always had a passion for communicating through drawing and making things.

Subjects at Scots, like Art, Design and Technology were favourites, and a keen interest in the physical and social sciences made architecture a natural fit.

Alex was a talented member of the 1sts Tennis and 2nd XV Rugby teams, and Cadet Under Officer in the Cadet Unit, but after completing a week’s work experience with an architect in Year 10, he was set on architecture.

Alex found his first job at Gunter Schwarz Design in Wollongong. “Gunter was an incredibly generous architect who gave me design projects from a very early stage and mentored me through concept development and hand drawing development applications,” he recalled. He kept working with them while completing his Bachelor of Architecture (Hons) at the University of New South Wales before graduating in 2006.

Alex was unsure about how, exactly, he would apply his degree: “I went on a very deliberate path of trying to find practices that helped me quantify environmental benefits of different design and construction options.” He persisted and from 2010 until 2014 worked with the global, sustainable development consultancy group, Arup.

In 2014 keen to advance sustainable architecture in Australia, he started his own firm, Alexander Symes Architect. With climate change a reality, he believed architecture must lead innovation in how we create a sustainable future. “I think people are well attuned that the climate is changing, and your traditional passive solar house is going to be less robust. We’re seeing a shift to clients insisting on a passive house (energy-efficient) structure,” he said.

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Alex on the job

Alex has won multiple sustainability awards, including Habitus House of the Year awards for his residential design work. He shares his passion for sustainability through lectures, committees and panels with associations like the Australian Institute of Architects and recently returned to Scots as a guest speaker for the 2023 HSC Technological and Applied Studies Exhibition in September. Alex’s recommendation to graduates is, “Be very targeted with who you are applying to and why you are applying to them. Share why you want to work at that practice and why you will add value.”

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