Q&A with an Architect of Connection

Philip Dingemanse is the national award winning architect responsible for Dales of Derby. A scroll through his portfolio quickly reveals a keen sense for aesthetic balance, a boldness with materials and an eye for creating invitational spaces. In short, this guy is an architect of connection: connecting people with each other and with the place around them, outdoors and in.

What is your unique approach to architecture?

I’m working hard to design thoughtfully conceived places out of ordinary stuff.

The design outcome is not about style but rather about potential. I’m always looking for what I call “the elusive other”, something else that is specific to where and who I am working with, and something beyond just the functional needs.

This often comes out of what a client might say, or where the building is, or what has to happen, or a constraint, or a hunch, or a written word, or a thought in the middle of the night.

What inspires you?


What is more important: form or function?


The complexity of architecture is the interplay of these. Sometimes they are in conflict with each other and sometimes they play well together.

If design is only form making and doesn’t ask why, the built outcome may well be contrived, or alternatively if just function, anodyne and boring.

The ideas matter.

Delivering a piece of infrastructure is but a part - it should also make you feel a certain way, perhaps even provoke you.

With the Dales, it was to be a base for adventure and to present an alternative kind of accommodation that allowed a large group to gather and connect with each other and with the natural beauty and history of the area.

The building needed to be a well-conceived architectural response, be sufficiently robust and low maintenance, and maximise solar power generation in a discreet manner.

Budget parameters were to require careful consideration with priority given to use of readily available materials, buildability and standard construction methods.

So, set within a rugged low maintenance framework, the architecture seeks to capture the spirit of a fun time away and of somewhere memorable (red vault, blue from above, yellow lights, warm timber interiors).

What's the best bit about Dales of Derby?

The potential. The building is but a party vessel! But this is perhaps a question for every guest who stays.

What was your biggest design challenge?

The biggest challenge was how to thoughtfully integrate the building into the township.

The Dales is the very first building seen on the main road approach to Derby, and so the narrow end is presented.

Importantly, the building is not a house, and so the form and material selections draw cues from elsewhere. A tractor shed or grey timber barn perhaps, but not a painted weatherboard house.

Aside from designing cool buildings, how do you spend your time?


Where can we see more of your work?

Some of my better known designs in Tasmania include the Hilltop House (2008 & 2016), Valley House (2014) and Southern Outlet House (2013).