Prior to this, I was a research assistant at RMIT, at the special information architecture laboratory. Very much about integrating computers and tech into architecture, working with cross-disciplinary teams. After a couple of years there, I wanted to branch out into architectural practice, and one of the senior team knew James and Tim. They had worked on Federation Square together. I spoke to Tim and he said ‘Sure, when do you want to start?’ And that was in 2008.
The State Sports Facility is a good one, we worked on that with H2O. It’s really graphically strong. And now my kids actually go there for sports, so I can say, ‘Mum did that!’ which is fun. Charcoal Lane is another great one, though sadly it’s since closed over the pandemic. It was a beautiful restaurant serving native ingredients, and a social enterprise providing hospitality training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.
The existing building had a really interesting heritage. It was a Georgian bank, originally, before the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service took it over. I remember the building in the 80s, with the Indigenous flag colours painted across it – it was really strong. So I enjoyed being able to work with the clients to understand what was important to them, in terms of colour, graphics and art, and reinterpret that in a cool contemporary way. I also got to learn more about specifically local Indigenous art. In Australia we see a lot of Indigenous art from Central Australia, which is graphically and culturally distinct. That was incredibly interesting.
The culture in the office is supportive, friendly, and quite chill – that makes a big difference. In terms of the work itself, I think we’re all really committed to doing good work, and really engaged with the clients. We develop strong central ideas, I think that’s something we do well. And the work we do is so varied, so we get to engage in so many different kinds of design and problem-solving, with a range of clients and project scales.
The most fulfilling thing, always, is seeing a building finished – knowing that all that effort was worth it, that’s a great moment! There’s a lot of hard slogs to get there. And good teamwork is what helps you through that process. I find that really enjoyable, working collaboratively. I also enjoy the concept and feasibility phase of a project, solving the bigger problems, working through planning, briefs, budgets, building codes, all these things – to be able to bring a meaningful building out of that is super rewarding.
I like to think I’m good at seeing the big picture… and I try not to take things too seriously. It helps me through, and it helps the team as well. Life can be serious, but that doesn’t mean you should take it seriously because you can get stuck. You have to be able to zoom out and see the context, see the absurdities to be able to push through. As architects, we often have difficult problems to solve, so it’s important to have a laugh and move forward. I think I’m also quite good at breaking things into chunks, focusing on the priorities and keeping work on track, the project management side of things. Matching our efforts to the phase we’re at in the project.
It’s one thing that I think is really great about us here, is that we’re all in sync about: not buying into any of that tortured artist bull****. Yes, architecture is meaningful, and yes it builds culture. But at the same time, you know… it’s a job! We’re not gods. The team is very practical.