Q&A With Developer and Architect,Theo Kerlidis


Theo Kerlidis is the Principal of Longboat Development Group and k20 Architecture. He is a developer who is passionate about his work of creating communities, not just buildings. Here he provides The Urban Developer readers with an insight into his philosophies and where he draws his inspiration. 

What inspired your interest in development?
Designing and building a development creates a sense of purpose and a place that shapes lives for the better. I’ve always had the ability to imagine the ‘big picture’, not just design a building, but understand and incorporate into the design what should accompany that building. If you create a community that has the best intentions for those who dwell in those buildings then you have an urban environment that helps shape how we are and how we behave and that’s better for everyone.
What sets Longboat Development Corporation apart from other developers?
Longboat is not just about building great apartments for individuals and families but designing, building and creating a sense of community. As human beings we don’t live in a vacuum, we need to be a part of a community and creating a development that interacts with its surroundings is a good and healthy plan. In my next project (Eternity) we are exploring this not only through the style and construction of the apartments but through the ecology of the land that surrounds the development. We will do this by restoring the adjoining landscape to encourage and help preserve the birdlife, maintain trees and vegetation and create a natural habitat for people to enjoy. With the addition of a rooftop garden and other sustainable initiatives such as grey water recycling we can help create a sustainable lifestyle but also encourage harmony with nature. We deliver affordable, high-value design that creates a more integrated sense of community.


Above and below: Eternity in West Footscray will consist of 61 generously proportioned one and two bedroom apartments in five timber clad structures.


What do you look for in other acquisitions? 
When choosing a site for development the land needs to be large with the correct orientation so that there is not overshadowing. The development of the land has to have a minimal impact on the neighbourhood and be close to schools and connected to public transport.
Are there certain objectives that Longboat adheres to when you develop a new project? 
Yes. I want to create a place that people love.  It’s quite simple. I just love creating places that people are amazed by and say, ‘I love this place.’
What do you think people are looking for in apartment living these days?
I think it’s really easy: a community, neighbours, friendships, comfort.  A sense of privacy as well, I think is important.  People are also looking for a home. People talk about units but actually what they should be is apartments.  If you think about the ’50s apartments they weren’t little dog boxes and these days people want a home and an opportunity -- an apartment that is a stepping-stone and something that will appreciate in value.
So, how important is quality design for residential development? 
It's paramount.
What advice would you give to developers just starting out in the industry?
The role of the developer should be that of a person with an esteemed view, creating something out of nothing. As a developer, your responsibility is greater than just to make money.  The money will come, if you’re doing your work well. You need to have the expertise and the professionalism to create something special.
What do you draw on for inspiration when designing a project?
Nature, people and the cultural context of the site and project is the starting point. Developing a design and a project is imagining the possible and it is a privilege to be involved in and to lead such projects. I like creating places that matter; places that create community identity and places that are connected while placing the person, our ecology and sustainability at the centre of design. To create an experience is to realise that people are looking for homes and to make places their own. My view is that we have plenty of great examples of ‘proper’ apartment living and the model has been substantially progressed internationally.

I draw inspiration from cities and projects that provide low to mid-rise apartments that are established as places to raise families and to create communities, especially those that provide mixed-use and affordable solutions. There is a lot of great work being done and I simply seek to draw out the best from the site and create places of inspiration.


Above and below: Trinity Apartments by k20 Architecture located in West Footscray, Melbourne, achieves a building star rating of 7.3 stars. A three storey void creates a dramatic entry point to the building and allows daylight to penetrate the common area of each level. Image credits: Peter Bennetts.


How does your process differ from directing a development company to an architecture firm?
The process of architecture is a creative one, and the process of development is that of management. They are different and the aspect that I enjoy is combining both -- the end-to -end management process with the creative process, seeing projects in totality from start to finish. I am building on an integrated service model as I believe architects can do it better! The advantage of this is that I can see/imagine what the spaces will look like, how they will perform and how people will relate to the built outcome. As an architect I am free to create value and in turn create apartments that have value. As a developer I am free to adhere to the detail and enable quality in the outcome.
Where do you see the future of design and development heading?
The market is always being challenged and we should be motivated to create places that people will want to occupy. Part of the current challenge is that we second-guess what people will want in the future, as the process to deliver an apartment is not that of delivering an individual home. The other part of the challenge is to find suitable sites that can be reasonably developed to create low and mid-rise housing solutions.

The challenge for the future will be to combine these two aspects. The approach is to enable people to be part of the plan, that is, to be involved with the design of the interior of their low to mid-rise apartment within a well-positioned and a well connected site.

If it is not APRA or the Chinese market or the local banking criteria being challenged, it will be something else in the future. An aspect that I believe holds true is that buildings and developments that are well designed, well put together and fit within their context should always retain their value. It is more relevant than ever that we continue to create places that are unique and respond to the needs of the individual.


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