The story of TERROIR begins in Tasmania, where a deep respect for nature and landscape has informed the use of steel in creating strikingly abstract and angular designs.

Words: Jan Henderson.

Photography: Portrait Photography Jonathan Wherrett

Edition 133

Nov 2023

Inspired by nature and creating architecture in the landscape is the essence of TERROIR, an architectural practice that has created its own pathway to success. From its earliest projects, steel has been harnessed and favoured as a material to showcase its abstracted, angular designs.

As an architectural practice, TERROIR leaves its mark by creating buildings that pay tribute to the beauty of nature through the man-made. More than 24 years since the studio was established by Scott Balmforth, Gerard Reinmuth and Richard Blythe, it has evolved to become a leader in architecture and design, both in Australia and on the world stage.

The story of TERROIR is of three friends who grew up in Tasmania. Balmforth and Reinmuth met on the cricket pitch at a young age and then commenced architecture studies in the same year at the University of Tasmania. Blythe, on the other hand, was a few years older, and was their tutor for the first three years.

Each man had their own pathway in architecture that then intersected. Balmforth worked the last two years of his Master’s degree in architecture at a practice in Hobart, Reinmuth moved to New South Wales for employment and Blythe went on to become the deputy head of the University of Tasmania’s School of Architecture. Soon after, Reinmuth moved to Scotland and, with Blythe becoming more involved with academic life, Balmforth was the man on the ground in Tasmania.

And so TERROIR was born on 1st March, 1999. At the time (and still today), the practice model was very progressive, with principals in different countries or cities. It has served TERROIR well and has become a popular template for other architecture and design studios to adopt.

At Penguin Parade Visitor Centre, the forms are dramatic but merge nevertheless into the surrounding landscape. Photo: Peter Bennetts.

The name TERROIR comes from French and means, ‘the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography and climate’ (Oxford Languages). After European travels, this was a word that held meaning for Balmforth and encapsulated the ideas that each architect held about the Tasmanian landscape – albeit with architecture, not wine, central to the meaning.

TERROIR was up and running, creating projects and winning awards. Change was in the air and in 2013 Blythe moved away from the practice, following his own academic career. Balmforth and Reinmuth continued to create with the practice as they had begun, designing outstanding projects with exemplary outcomes.

The continuum between projects and the style of TERROIR is the connection to place. Tasmania and its lush natural environment is innate to both men and it shows in their designs. That’s not to say that the studio’s projects are reticent in any way. Each is a singular design statement, with long lines and geometric angles, substantial buildings that rise above the ground as a celebration of outstanding architecture – whether a residence, a public building or a commercial commission.

Materiality is important for the practice and the use of steel is integral to creation. From one of the first projects the studio undertook in 2003, steel has been the material of choice. That project was Peppermint Bay, a hospitality venue some 40 minutes south of Hobart, and it prominently featured roofing and wall cladding made from COLORBOND® steel.

As a three-dimensional building, the steel lent gravitas to the Peppermint Bay concept and helped translate the design intention to reality. Balmforth explains: “It was a project we look back on because it signalled that we were interested in ideas about landscape and about architecture in the landscape,” he says. “We used COLORBOND® steel and it was a fantastic material for the job. We were able to translate the early cardboard models (of the building) into a built form with a singular material whether it was on the roof or walls. It was a lean material and had to be cost-effective.”

Since then, steel has become a much loved material employed in a variety of projects. As Balmforth says, “Steel became a logical choice, whether it was a house or a commercial building.” Not only is steel favoured for its strength and durability but the range of colours available, especially the greys and greens, is ideal for most projects and complements the landscape.

The climactic room at Peppermint Bay, whose height is derived from an adjacent tree. Photo: Shannon McGrath.

“The strength, resilience and thinness that we can get from steel is really important - it just lends itself to malleability...”

Scott Balmforth TERROIR

While TERROIR’s commissions vary between educational projects, visitor centres, museums, community centres, single homes, multi-residential and social housing projects, one of its latest commissions is the Mallanganee Lookout, a 10-metre-diameter structure sited in northern New South Wales.

Positioned on the precise latitude where the centre of the Milky Way galaxy crosses directly overhead every day, the project will be technologically advanced and built with steel, deemed the most suitable material for the concept and the site’s landscape. Balmforth explains: “The strength, resilience and thinness that we can get from steel is really important, and it just lends itself to malleability to really enhance and interpret the project.”

With a multitude of commissions under its belt, TERROIR is now helping to lead the next generation of architecture practices by example. In the early days, Reinmuth and Balmforth were inspired by the likes of icons such as Glenn Murcutt, supported by their peers and, importantly, each other. With the duo having completed an invited Master’s program at RMIT in 2008 under the tutelage of Professor Leon van Schaik, there was the opportunity to investigate and refine their particular design voice, as well as create lasting connections to other practices. Now as an established and revered architectural force, TERROIR’s work is proof-perfect that a studio emanating from the smallest state in Australia can make a lasting imprint on the face of the design industry.

TERROIR has studios in Hobart, Tasmania where Balmforth is situated, in Sydney, New South Wales and also Copenhagen, Denmark, where Reinmuth lives. The two architects and great friends have a deep personal connection and catch up face-to-face wherever and whenever possible. They continue to talk daily and their partnership is a key driver to the practice.

While each architect oversees particular projects, it is the practice team members, working with their principals, who help conceive and realise the projects. Balmforth explains: “It’s great to sit back and look at people in the practice who’ve been with us for so long and have skills that set them apart from others. We have great pride in watching them grow.

“I think there’s a maturing and a payback for 20 years of hard work to then really flourish and look forward to the next 10 years with great excitement. We think that we haven’t completed our best building yet and we’re constantly eager to prove what we have learnt.”

Mallanganee Lookout in northern NSW provides an elevated view over an extraordinary sub-tropical landscape that has World Heritage status. Image: Courtesy of TERROIR.

It’s not only the people who grow in an architecture practice – so too does the voice of a studio such as TERROIR. Creating buildings that articulate a place and a space, that meet and exceed a brief, is what TERROIR does best.

As Balmforth reflects, “I suppose there’s something about the Tasmanian landscape that we grew up in. Often, we’ll talk about the lines, and that means the shapes of the mountain, or the way you move through the landscape with those constructed paths that take straight elements and move them through a dramatic landscape. It is influential and tends to come through in our work.”

In the case of TERROIR, it is nature and the human-made working together in harmony. Balmforth and Reinmuth, and their team, have found just the right balance to create profound architecture with buildings that stand the test of time and create a connection to people and place.

Architect information





Level 1/3 Morrison St, Hobart TAS 7000
Email: hobart@terroir.com.au
Nominated Architect: Scott Balmforth CC1041T


Level 2/79 Myrtle St, Chippendale NSW 2008
Email: Sydney@terroir.com.au
Nominated Architect: Gerard Reinmuth 6629

Awards and Publications

Every project is different and not all products are suitable for all applications, projects and environments. Some products may perform better than others in certain applications and conditions. BlueScope generally recommends the use of COLORBOND® steel or ZINCALUME® steel for the majority of external cladding applications.

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