Sydney architect Jayne Harrison says no to the bully boys – and she makes no apology for it.

A couple of years ago a builder told me I was a ball breaker.

As an architect specialising in complex public infrastructure projects I have 25 years experience under my belt and have completed over 150 major Australian and global projects.

Over the last 15 years I’ve built JDH Architects from ground zero to a medium-sized commercial architectural practice designing major public infrastructure, particularly education. So, while the jury is out on the ball breaker tag, one thing’s for sure – I’ve been there, done that, when it comes to delivering complex building projects.

To build a commercial architecture firm you need to have commercial acumen. This means being able to flex and adapt, working on projects that require governance, accountability, and an understanding that traditional procurement is not always the preferred methodology for public sector clients.

The complexity and accountability required for large complex projects requires architects to engage in novated design & construct procurement and methodology, offering a low risk solution to clients. But only if all parties play fair.

Sean Cartwright has spoken often to the architecture profession about the obligations we as professionals have in ensuring we honour each other and the profession in these changing times.

But times, they are a changing, and it’s not just about copyright and fees. It’s about standing up and standing firm when it comes to delivering quality design and quality buildings for the clients and communities we serve, and being paid in full for our services to boot.

Bully boys beware

I have a practice founded on collaboration. On listening and bowing to those with greater knowledge than me. Sometimes it is the client, sometimes it is the builder. But two minds are always better than one.

But as our buildings get bigger, so do the building firms we work with. Builders that are more business men than builders. Building firms where only one thing matters, and that is the bottom line.

So wise up sisters

When a second tier builder to whom you are novated requests you change… piling, windows, finishes, car-park layout, fill in the blank … there is only one answer, and that is …


NO, because I’ve spent the last 25 years crafting skills as an architect.

NO, because what I have specified is tried and tested and is important to the long-term durability and design of the building.

NO, because “lead time problems” is not an excuse when you have had six months to order.

NO, because guess what – that’s what you tendered on.

NO, because WHATEVER the sad sorry tale you’re trying to spin my project architects about, whatever reason you have, I know you would not be asking if it was not saving you money.

NO, because we will not be manipulated, bullied, or have monies withheld, just because they think they can get away with it.

So, go ahead, call me a ball breaker, but reducing the specification efficacy and delight of the buildings and being screwed by bully boys is NOT going to happen. Not to me.

My balls won’t allow it.


Jayne Harrison has over 25 years of experience as a successful architect, designer and entrepreneur. Having previously worked in practices across the globe, Jayne founded her own Sydney-based practice, JDH Architects, in 2004. JDH Architects has delivered more than 100 projects across all sectors of education, affording JDH Architects a reputation as one of Sydney’s most innovative, creative and dynamic educational design firms.