VALE SAMUEL WHINNETT
24 November 1984 – 2 April 2023
It is with great sadness that we inform the membership of the passing of Samuel Whinnett on Sunday, 2 April 2023. In honour of her dear friend and colleague, Katelin Butler has shared the below tribute.
When Samuel Whinnett unexpectedly and tragically passed away on 2 April 2023 at the age of 38, the world lost a generous and kind soul. His deep thinking and strongly held values infused every aspect of his life – from how he treated his family and many friends, to how he practised as a graduate of architecture. Throughout his career, his focus was to change the construction industry from being one of the highest consumers of energy to one of the greatest producers – through smart, beautiful and liveable architecture, accessible to all. Intelligent, quick-witted and playful, Sam was a talented designer who always strived to make a positive impact on the world.
I met Sam in 2003 in the Bachelor of Environmental Design at the University of Tasmania. We chose drawing desks opposite each other in the first-year studio and our friendship began. Although our life paths didn’t always land us in the same place, we were in regular communication with one another from this point onwards – and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about his many adventures and watching his career trajectory.
Born and raised in lutruwita / Tasmania by mother Helen and father Bill, Sam loved the island and what it offered him – particularly the incredible wilderness. However, after third year, his adventurous spirit got the better of him, leading him to travel abroad and to other parts of Australia to work as a student architect. He was drawn to places not for a particular job or career opportunity, but for their natural appeal and their surfing, climbing or bushwalking prospects. An internship at Troppo Architects in 2006 allowed him to learn more about environmental design and, during his time at Geolink Consulting as an architectural and engineering assistant, he garnered technical skills that would assist him later with his work in the United Kingdom.
In 2008, Sam returned to the University of Tasmania to complete his Master of Architecture before taking off on yet another adventure – this time to Denmark in Western Australia. Visiting him there in 2010, I was taken by the wild and rugged beauty of this part of the world and immediately understood why Sam had chosen to stay. He commuted daily to Albany to work with Roberts Gardiner Architects.
Sam spent six years in the United Kingdom, working predominantly with Askew Cavanna Architects in Bristol. Concerning itself with sustainability and affordability for homes, work and community spaces, the studio aligned well with Sam’s core ethics. During this time, he achieved a Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice from the University of Bath. It was also during this time that Sam began his work as the Architectural Solar Designer for Energy Transitions and became a driving force behind the world’s first low-emissivity transpired solar collector facade system, harnessing renewable, solar-generated heat to decarbonise buildings. This continued to be an active project for Sam, alongside his design practice.
Sam came back to Australia in 2019 and, after a brief stint in Melbourne, finally returned to his treasured Tasmania. While in Melbourne, he met Hannah, his beloved partner. As life would have it, Hannah is originally from the United Kingdom and when family commitments required her to move back home, she ended up in Bristol, where Sam had left not that long before. After some time apart, the pair were happily reunited in Launceston, Tasmania – where they were planning their future life adventures together.
On his return to Australia, Sam reconnected with an ex-employer, Will Goodsir – and began consulting with Will and Clare Steen of Plain Architecture, in both Melbourne and Launceston. Sam was passionate about the work of Plain Architecture, which prioritises simplicity, the minimisation of environmental impact and cost reduction. Throughout his career, including during his time with Plain Architecture, Sam spent time on the tools – on the building site or workshop rather than in the studio. He thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of design, as it fed his endless curiosity about how things worked and were made.
Sam was abundantly patient and believed in taking the time to do things properly – a rare trait in today’s fast-paced world. He could also articulate his thinking using the written word, an art that is often overlooked in the architectural industry. In 2018, Sam accompanied me to Bruny Island on a writing assignment for Houses magazine. He was so taken by the project (Bruny Island Cabin by Maguire and Devine Architects) that he offered to write the article for me – and he did. The opening lines to this article are a good example of how Sam approached the world. He wrote: “If you’ve camped frequently or for long enough, you will discover there is a ‘place’ for your items and a ‘way’ to use them. A fine understanding of what happens when the rain falls, how to see the stars at night while staying out of the wind and how to fit everything you need into your bag comes from experience and reflection, and can be a great source of pride when achieved.” He loved being in nature, he took his time with things and was always wanting to learn more about the world.
A connective tissue within his friendship groups and within the architectural industry, Sam was loved by so many people. The day before he fell during a rock-climbing trip to Cradle Mountain, he’d been learning to climb trees in Takayna / Tarkine with the Bob Brown Foundation – and those who were with him told us that he was immensely nourished by this experience. There is the smallest bit of solace in knowing that he spent his last couple of days in the wilderness that he always respected and protected. I will miss him always. – Katelin Butler