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Habitus is a movement for living in design. We’re an intelligent community of original thinkers in constant search of native uniqueness in our region.

 

From our base in Australia, we strive to capture the best edit, curating the stories behind the stories for authentic and expressive living.

 

Habitusliving.com explores the best residential architecture and design in Australia and Asia Pacific.

 

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Edwardian Meets Mid-Century

The Reed House in Subiaco, Perth, is home to Frances and Mark Reed and their four daughters aged between six and 16. Designed by architect Beth George – Frances’ sister – the project comprises a restoration to the façade of an original Edwardian house, a renovation of the interiors, and a redesign of the “zany” addition to the rear, pegged to have been built in the 80s or 90s. Core to the client’s brief was to fluidly integrate the heritage façade with a modern renovation and extension to the body of the house. This was purely preferential, as the previous owners had in fact removed the house from the heritage registrar. Frances and Mark agreed unequivocally on all parts of the brief, such as the wish for communal spaces that encourage family time in addition to private areas that offer time alone. But there were also elements that spoke stronger to each as individuals. Frances was eager to see modest spaces with elegant yet unfussy detailing. With a particular penchant for mid-century furniture and lighting, she sourced many of the standalone pieces of furniture herself. The dining table, however, is a custom creation from local furniture maker Guy Eddington.  

Core to the client’s brief was to fluidly integrate the heritage façade with a modern renovation and extension to the body of the house.

  For Mark, it was paramount that there be a relationship between the indoors and outdoors. The previous addition had lacked this type of connection and he wanted to be able to come home after work and play with his daughters in the pool. To this effect an outdoor kitchen was designed to be an extension of the indoor kitchen rather than separate or secondary. To passers-by, the restored exterior of the original house remains street-facing, with a new carport and porch upholding the same language. Inside one finds the original parlour and a guest bedroom and study (with a compact bathroom between the latter two). Move down the hallway to find the garden, or through the deep archway for the kitchen, long and linear flanking the sunken dining room. Continue through the ground floor to two separable living areas or the main bedroom and bathroom adjacent. Otherwise, venture upstairs to find the four daughters’ bedrooms past a reading nook at the top of the stairs.  

“By excavating the dining space by 600 millimetres, I could create a tall volume that one steps down into from the existing house”

  Frances and Mark, even Beth as the architect, each had strong inclinations to bridge architecture with nature. “From this shared desire for a house deeply embedded in the landscape grew the idea of having every room paired with a garden,” recalls Beth. From the various elements of the brief from Frances and Mark, Beth was able to separate three key themes to the architecture; Spines, Dig and Gardens. The idea was that one long spine would seamlessly connect the original building to the modern extension with subtle design cues that reinforce this transition without creating a disconnect. “A language was sought that would match the level of detail of the original dwelling without emulating its features, and this has been achieved through gentle curves, the tempering of light, tactile surfaces like textured brick,” says Beth.  

One long spine seamlessly connects the original building to the modern extension with subtle design cues that reinforce this transition without creating a disconnect.

  Instead of rooms either side of the extended hallway (one of the earlier designs), the extension masses to the west and opens out to maximise the volume of the block. By the time one reaches the new architecture they are in somewhat of a garden corridor, one wall is almost completely covered by hanging plants. The second spine, which runs in parallel to the first on a north-south axis, takes the form of a wind tunnel – a direct request from Mark! – and progresses from the gym at the front to the kitchen, living and main bedroom. Frances trained and worked for many years as an archaeologist. The dining space, physically and conceptually the central area of the project, combines her profession and her family. “By excavating the dining space by 600 millimetres, I could create a tall volume that one steps down into from the existing house. This allowed me to treat the suspended slab, the soffits and planter, as one continuous concrete element that now slips in underneath the eaves of the original house,” says Beth.  

The extension masses to the west and opens out to maximise the volume of the block.

  Finally, we return to the notion of pairing each room to a garden or landscaped area. A courtyard enclosed in glass breaches the long, rectangular-plan of the extension, and is suitably paired with the living and dining room. Located between the old and new, it doubles to provide spatial separation yet visual continuity. The main bedroom on the ground floor pairs with the lawn and a cascading bougainvillea on the rear wall. The daughters’ rooms on the second story connect to tree canopies below and planters outside their respective windows. Landscape architect Christina Nicholson was given a brief for plants of different height, colours and textures. Informing architect Beth George’s design thinking for Reed House and framing the resulting architecture are two primary conversations. The first is honouring the history of the site and the second is between architecture and landscape and facilitating new memories for the clients and their daughters. “This home enriches the way we live as a big family – we have spaces for togetherness, and also for seclusion. We now live outdoors far more than we used to… The kids have cultivated unexpected play-spaces everywhere,” affirms Frances. Beth George beth-george.com Photography by Benjamin Hosking We think you might also like The Habitus Edit to Internal Courtyards abc
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Andrew Parr Is A Force To Be Reckoned With

At a time in which Australia had few truly multi-disciplinary design practices, Alan Synman, Charles Justin, and Michael Bialek – the S, J, and B behind the almighty SJB – sought an innovative way to diversify their offering. Coincidently, a gung-ho young interior designer with a desire to breach new frontiers was within their midst. Fresh out of RMIT’s Interior Design School, Andrew Parr had joined the acclaimed architectural practice in the late eighties as part of their budding team of in-house interior designers. “At the start, [SJB was] pretty much just architects doing commercial buildings and some houses,” says Andrew. Come 1994, after five years of designing office fitouts and residential interiors, SJB was ready for growth. “I wanted to forge the business into different directions such as hospitality,” says Andrew. SJB Interiors was formed as a separate entity and set out to realise its own vision with the support of Alan, Charles, and Michael behind it – and Andrew at its helm. Absolutely this move broadened a potential client base, but it also allowed SJB Interiors to develop its own distinct style, separate yet connected to SJB. “Our focus was to create moods and atmospheres within architecturally designed spaces, to make them feel comfortable in their environment, whether it was a corporate office or hotel, a restaurant or a high-end residence,” says Andrew. “We were about observing how people enjoy spaces, and designing in response.” The Establishment Hotel, Sydney Early on, SJB Interiors stayed close to home, carrying out the contemporary, edgy office fitouts for Arnold Bloch Leibler and Grey Advertising in Melbourne. Soon enough, its big break into the hospitality sphere came thanks to Melbourne’s Crown Casino – the development of which, as Andrew recalls, practically kept Melbourne’s design industry afloat in the wake of economic recession. “I think that everyone will say that [the Crown Casino] made most of the big companies, including us, survive over that period – because otherwise it was destitute.” Just as work on the Crown was wrapping up in time for its 1997 grand opening, fortuitous timing saw Sydney begin to gear itself up to host the 2000 Summer Olympics. It was all go from there. “From the late nineties, we started doing work in Sydney, and that was a big change,” remembers Andrew, “that really forged us on to doing a lot of hospitality work.” It was a period of exponential growth. Projects such as MG Garage, Middle Bar, and the Establishment Hotel became iconic additions to the cultural fabric of Sydney, and equally momentous projects in SJB Interiors’ body of work. These days, SJB Interiors is strong team of 24, including Andrew and co-directors Ljiljana Gazevic and Leo Terrando. Still close to its roots, the team collaborates from time to time with its big brother, SJB Architects – most recently on the refurbishment of Melbourne’s iconic Royce Hotel. Meanwhile, across borders, its long-standing relationship with Adina Hotels, along with a budding partnership with Hyatt Hotels, sees them continue to create fresh moods and atmospheres for destinations throughout Australia and Europe. The Royce Hotel, Melbourne As a mentor for the next generation of SJB Interiors’ designers, Andrew preaches two textbook childhood lessons: look, listen, and learn; and who, what, when, how, and why. This advice grounds and guides the work of SJB Interiors, prioritising essence and atmosphere over aesthetics to produce places and spaces that stand the test of time. “A great interior has to work hard on many levels. It needs to be on brief, and function impeccably. And it must be above fashion, so it won’t be ripped out in a few years’ time. A great interior is enduring and memorable,” says Andrew. In the 25 years since its inception, SJB Interiors has certainly proven itself enduring and memorable. It has pushed through economic downtowns, set industry benchmarks, won awards, and been behind the design of countless iconic places to eat, play, work, and stay – locally, nationally, and internationally. As for Andrew, experiencing – and surviving – the booms and busts of both industries and observing the cyclical nature of trends has matured him. Even so, Andrew’s passion, curiosity and pioneering spirit are as present as ever, continually a driving force for SJB Interiors – indeed a force to be reckoned with. SJB Interiors sjb.com.au Portrait by Marnie Hawson We think you might also like this episode of Dialling In With... Tristan Wong of SJBabc
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Dialling In With Vokes And Peters

In 2015 Stuart Vokes and Aaron Peters established the now well-known and frequently celebrated architecture studio Vokes and Peters. However the duo had been working alongside each other for a long time prior - since the time Stuart was a teacher and Aaron a student. The impetus to start a practice together was not only the recognition of shared values and ambitions, but also a sense of comradery and the strong value they each attached to the friendship and professional support they gave one another. In the five years since foundation, Vokes and Peters has received numerous architecture awards including the Habitus House of the Year award for Interior and Exterior Connection for Teneriffe House in 2019. On this episode of Dialling In With Habitus we speak to Stuart and Aaron about the lessons learnt for better and for worse of the recent weeks. Download and listen to Dialling In With Habitus below, on Apple Podcasts, or on Spotify.
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An Off-Plan House Turned Inner-City Sanctuary

Inner-city living and off the plan residences are two things that don’t exactly spring to mind along with the image of a personal sanctuary. In fact, in many ways, they are inherently at odds with one another. This house in Caulfield North, Melbourne, by Studio Martin, however, defies any such logic. Amidst some of the trendiest suburbs in the south-eastern skirts of Melbourne, neighbour to the likes of St Kilda, Prahran and Elsternwick, Caulfield North is a family haven just a stone’s throw from the centre of the city. As a suburb, it is quaint and peaceful, with cafés and parks in plenty, all the while blessed with great schools, amenities and all the conveniences of urban dwelling.  

“The brief was to create a soft, calm space with clean lines that would offer a sense of sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the everyday.”

  Having recently purchased a new, four-bedroom residence off the plan in Caulfield North, the clients for this project – a young, professional couple with one child and another on the way – approached Studio Martin to transform its conventional interiors into those of a bespoke family home. “Their brief was to create a soft, calm space with clean lines that would offer a sense of sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the everyday,” recall Amanda and Lauren Martin, the sister duo behind the Melbourne-based architecture and interior design studio. Working within the existing framework of the house – which comprised an open-plan living, dining and kitchen; a separate study, lounge area, powder room and mudroom; and four bedrooms each with ensuites, and a kid’s retreat upstairs – Studio Martin focused on carrying a considered and natural materiality throughout the home to create a warm and cohesive journey.  

Studio Martin focused on carrying a considered and natural materiality throughout the home to create a warm and cohesive journey.

  The palette consists of natural and neutral tones. Oiled spotted gum; light oak engineered timber floorboards; honed Carrara marble slabs and tiles; matte porcelain tile kitchen and bar benchtops; and soft, neutral linen curtains. A custom designed timber battened wall, crafted out of rich, solid spotted gum, takes pride of place as the main feature of the new and improved interior design. Transposed onto the kitchen space, the spotted gum feature makes its mark in the form of bespoke kitchen joinery – a combination of solid spotted gum and veneer. Adjoining the kitchen zone, behind a timber sliding door, is a hidden bar – one of the few changes to the floorplan that Studio Martin made. In the main bedroom, full-height timber robes extend into the main ensuite zone, incorporating a custom timber towel rail and full height bathroom storage adjacent to the vanity. A floating dresser desk blurs the line between ensuite and bedroom, while the ensuite houses a circular bath and a custom-designed vanity, carved completely out of Carrara marble, encased in custom wall paneling and timber veneer joinery. In reimagining the interiors of an off-plan build through such considered materiality, Studio Martin has transformed a conventional modern home into a balanced and elevated abode. It is at once private and open; elegantly resolved and down-to-earth; inner-city and a safe haven from chaos. Studio Martin studiomartin.com.au Photography by Martina Gemmola. Styling by Jarvis Barker. Dissection Information Laminam porcelain from Signorino Cararra Marble from Signorino Rugs by Halcyon Lake Togo Sofa by Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset Rattan Furniture from Sika Design Plaster Cast Sculptures from Studio Martin Artwork from Kerry Armstrong Hand and Bath Towels by Loom Towels Nelson Saucer Wall Sconce by George Nelson for Herman Miller Applique de Marseille wall light by Le Corbusier for NEMO Ronda Bathtub from Prodigg We think you might also like Annandale House by Baldwin & Bagnall abc
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The Habitus Edit To Internal Courtyards

The Habitus Edit is a series of free, design-led resources carefully curated by the Habitus editorial team designed to keep you abreast of the themes and trends architects and their clients are working towards. Find your path to the second issue, on Internal Courtyards and what it takes to make them great, below.abc
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An Architectural Jewellery Box

Dubbed an ‘architectural jewellery box’ by Carter Williamson Architects, Concrete Blonde is an updated terrace house in Sydney’s inner west that features a delicate and considered array of materials – concrete, brick, timber and stainless steel – accentuated by lightplay captured through skylights and a courtyard well. Irene and Peter, Carter Williamson’s clients, had lived in this 100-year-old house in Annandale for a few of years before engaging the studio in 2014 for some simple architectural updates that would better align the residence to their unique way of life. They had an interest in the material palette and requested polished concrete, exposed brickwork, natural wood and stainless steel. These are durable, long lasting, low maintenance and high-performance materials. Concrete, for example, naturally self regulates the temperature year-round, trapping cooling air in summer and acting as a thermal mass in winter. Underpinning the brief was an understanding of the cultural and architectural significance of the heritage façade that sat in a row of eight identical others – so this was restored and maintained. The five-metre-wide site may be considered generous compared to other terraces but by no means is it large, so the circulation of the building needed to be clever and efficient. Functionally, there was a desire for open communal spaces that flexed to host extended family and friends, but could just as easily offer a peaceful sanctuary when they weren’t entertaining. The clients wanted private zones to which they could individually retreat, and they wanted to feel connected to the environment through natural light and sightlines to their prized garden. The kitchen/living/dining area is perhaps the most notable architectural moment of Concrete Blonde. In response to the brief, “black sliding glass doors dissolve away to connect the kitchen to the rear courtyard,” says architect and project lead Ben Peake. “These four spaces, [come] together as one, creating the heart of the home.” Inside, the kitchen island extends on the outer side to form bench seating – which also works in a tight site to conserve space. The dining table is a custom creation designed by Carter Williamson and Orange-based furniture designer Will Brennan. The dark green leather upholstery for the bench seating, and the cabinetry and joinery (made from Tasmanian Oak and finished in Dulux White Cabbage), are a subtle reference the native gumtrees outside and “a nod to the home’s former kitchen colour and memories of our clients extended family homes in Greece,” adds Ben. “I am a believer the heartbeat of every home is the kitchen,” says Irene. “It is a place of deep conversations and connection with people.” Carter Williamson has created the trifecta: a highly functional space, a space that at every corner or moment connects resident to nature or each other, and a space in which the clients joy to be. At the other end of the kitchen/living/dining area an internal courtyard demarcates the public and private, providing natural light sources at both ends and the centre of the large communal space. “A curved linear void sits above the living space…bridging northern light from a high window deep into the plan,” says Ben. “We often use skylights and voids to deal with the challenges of planning and less than ideal orientations.” A split staircase connects the renovated back end to the front two rooms (a bedroom and new bathroom) or further up to the main bedroom and studio room. The main bathroom, which was previously the second bedroom, is divided into micro spaces through curved tiling. This gives an intimacy to the respective spaces within a relatively large bathroom and also offers visual interest. On the facing wall is a hidden laundry. “Every step we take in the home creates little joyful moments,” says Irene, the project having been completed November 2019. Back in 2014 she and her husband had emailed a number of architects with a detailed brief of what they wanted. They ultimately chose to work with Carter Williamson because they felt this studio had the greatest understanding of their brief, which gave equal weight to the little moments as it did the larger ones. Carter Williamson carterwilliamson.com Photography by Katherine Lu We think you might also like Darlinghurst House by Brad Swartz Architects abc
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Coastal Charm At The Sebel In Manly

Since it first opened its doors in 1963, The Sebel hotel has been a mainstay of Manly situated a stone’s throw from the iconic beach on Sydney’s lower north shore. While the boutique design hotel is almost as loved as the beach by the locals and guests, that’s not to say after half a century the interiors don’t need a refresh now and then to stay current. Recently, and at the hands of In Design International, that is just what happened. With a budget of 2.6 million for the interior renovation, the Melbourne-based multi-disciplinary interior design studio had near free-reign to specify only the highest quality, durable, and contemporary finishes, hardware and furniture. Moving through the venue one feels simultaneously at ease and in complete luxury. As it happens, this was exactly the brief In Design International received: to create a “coastal luxury feel” at The Sebel to reflect its location and its clientele. To do this, Penny del Castillo, founder, principal and lead creative designer and her team visited Manly and its surrounding suburbs diligently documenting anything that gave them a sense of the area. “We noticed that it is all about the beach and being outdoors in the Manly area,” explains Keirah Alexander, one of the interior designers. “We were inspired by the movement of the sand, flowers and fauna in the area and the tones – everything was a lot more subtle and soft in terms of colouring and textures.” The team was also heavily inspired by the rocks and cliff front that lines the coast above and below Manly Beach. In honour of this natural, extraordinary and highly visual phenomenon, In Design International replicated the aesthetic through contrasting hard and soft finishes that mirror the coastal juxtapositions of a coastal environment that can be both soft and severe. This naturally led the design team to a selection of taps and hardware from Phoenix Tapware. The Cerchio Sink Mixer, Vivid Slimline Oval Vessel mixer and Vivid Slimline Oval Basin Mixer have been used throughout The Sebel and the stainless steel finish complements both the harder materials such as marble, stone and tiles, as well as the plush carpet, soft textiles and blonde wooden floorboards. This was also a unique job for the design team in that they needed to choose finishes and materials that would not only offer durability in terms of strength, but longevity in terms of aesthetics. “For our hotel clients, they don’t want to be doing renovations for hard finishes every five years. They want to be able to have product that has a sense of timelessness,” says Keirah. “That was what really drew us to the Vivid Slimline range; it feels modern but at the same time the soft curves and the choice of chrome in this particular case gave it that timeless look.” Contemporary elegance best describes the look and feel of the interiors at The Sebel, perfectly matching the client’s brief. In Design International were able to establish this so effortlessly with a strong spec sheet and more than one mention of Phoenix Tapware. Phoenix Tapware phoenixtapware.com.au Photography by Damien Kook The Sebal Manly Phoenix Tapwareabc
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Vacation Living In The Heart of Armadale

Rob Mills Architecture and Interiors celebrate Armadale’s rich architectural history in their latest multi-residential project, Hampden. Bringing their signature luxury into one of Melbourne’s most sought after neighbourhoods, RMA creates a joyful, bespoke living experience that feels like summer all year round. With RMA’s extensive experience in creating award-winning high-end residential dwellings, Hampden brings the practice’s hallmarks under one roof with ingenious design solutions, the use of healthy materials, high quality crafted textures, unique character and lasting value. Intrinsically linked to both land and its surroundings, the outside of the new development incorporates RMA’s signature design feature: a series of arches across the building’s brick façade. Brick was chosen for its texture, colour and durability while also being low maintenance - an essential quality in an apartment building with shared ownership. The arches are a nod to Armadale’s unique character defined by its shopfronts, verandas and window openings. Through a selection of natural materials and a soft colour palette, they give the building an inviting character and allow plenty of natural light within the nine private residences, genuinely bringing the concept of Enlightened Living to life. “We wanted to create interiors that remind you of summertime throughout the year,” says Rob Mills, Director of RMA. “A light palette with earthy tones was chosen to gently reflect the sunlight and be one with the bricked arches enclosing the interior,” he adds. As each large-scale three-bedroom residence benefits from the morning sun and has access to the changing light through the day, it can feel like it’s always summer in Hampden. The light, in combination with spatial arrangements, textures and acoustics, defines the joyful character of the dwellings. At the same time, their practical design ensures all the occupant’s daily needs are met. Governed by best-practice wellness design principles, including low toxicity plants, acoustic insulation, intuitive technology or the 7-star NaTHERS rating, Hampden delivers a living experience that’s gentle and healthy to live in. But RMA’s latest project isn’t only green on the inside. “Melbourne’s residential character is defined by its landscape and its wide tree-lined streets,” says Mills. “Hampden by RMA is built within one of these leafy environments.” There is s a space for a canopy of green and lush ground-floor gardens, while vertical gardens add greenery to the upper parts of the building and soften the scale of the development at the same time. Retaining full control of the project, RMA is both designing and delivering Hampden end-to-end, offering a truly unique experience to any purchaser. The practice’s holistic offering, also including project management and styling, will allow Mills to hand-pick bespoke furniture or artworks. The opportunity to upgrade also gives future occupants a chance to further tailor the interiors depending on individual requirements. Zip HydroTap G4 Elite is one of the selected ranges of appliances buyers can choose through an upgrade option. Designed to provide instant filtered boiling, chilled or sparkling water free from odours and contamination, Zip HydroTap further boosts Hamden’s sustainability and wellbeing credentials. At the same time, the finish options in either Gunmetal or Brushed Gold provide a sleek and contemporary touch that compliments the overall aesthetic of the new development. Through their latest Armadale project, RMA delivers a relaxed, bright and bespoke luxury creating a modern living experience that’s not only stylish, technologically advanced and sustainable but also developed to the exact needs of the occupants.abc
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Find Luxury Living With Nature

Put simply, the foundations of Brutalist architecture are based on simple, no-fuss, purpose-driven projects. Brutalism was very much a code of practice as much as an aesthetic – despite this, a very distinct aesthetic was indeed set. Today, the modern resurgence of the popular and enduring architectural movement can be epitomised in Carter Apartments, a new boutique apartment building designed by Carr. On paper, the use of concrete, grey tones, and hard lines could equally be descriptors of iconic Brutalist buildings across the world such as Unite d’habitation in Marseille by Le Corbusier, Alexandra Road Estate by Neave Brown in London, or more locally the UTS Tower by Michael Dysart in Sydney. In person, however, Carter Apartments tell a very different and decidedly more contemporary story with metal and glass on the façade and landscaping heavily incorporated through the sidewalk, courtyards and gardens. The architectural style intentionally responds to its locale, the leafy suburb of Toorak in Melbourne, and compliments the streetscape and other houses within the suburb. In fact at first glance the boutique multi-residential building housing eight luxury apartments could easily pass as a single – albeit monumental – residence. Concrete levels and bronze battening on the façade set the tone for the boutique apartments as an exemplar of luxurious and bold design. However, form finds function in every instance. For example, there is sense of openness between resident and community suggested through the large, floor-to-ceiling windows. Moreover the rigid structure is softened by the greenery, yet this landscaping doubles to subtlety secure privacy for the residents without complete isolation. To the benefit of Carter Apartments, Carr worked on both the architecture and interior design. This has resulted in a cohesive design in vision and execution for the exterior and interiors alike. As residents and their guests move through the spaces the various design cues compliment rather than compete with one another. The primary elements of the interior palette are marble and blonde timber. This feels connected to the concrete and dark timber exterior however the evolution to lighter and more delicate materials as one transitions inside feels appropriate both in use and in aesthetic. The overall result is a neutral palette that offers a sense of calm. Furthermore the proximity to nature through the afore mentioned floor-to-ceiling windows or verdant greenery and landscaping by Acre ensures multiple avenues through which one can view or sit amidst the natural environment. Generous in size, design and biophilic principles, Carter Apartments is an example of contemporary, luxury living and sophisticated design made possible in an inner suburb of one Australia’s capitol cities. Carr carr.net.au Photography by Timothy Kaye We think you might also like Emerging Housing Typologies abc
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Virtual Collaboration, In Reality

2020 is not yet halfway through and it has already proven itself to be an eye-opening year. There is nothing quite like a global pandemic to inspire – or enforce – systemic overhaul. In the wake of emergency social reform, we've found ourselves in need of a crash-course: Virtual Collaboration For Dummies. On Wednesday, 3 June, as part of the Habitus Webinar Series, four of Australia’s most astute architecture and design industry contemporaries zoomed in (virtually speaking) on the topic of remote workplace culture and practicing collaboration from home. Moderated by Habitus editor, Holly Cunneen, the expert panel comprised none other than Hayball principal, Donna Wheatley; Mim Design founder and principal, Miriam Fanning; Hassell design operations lead, Tristrim Cummings; and SP01 co-founder and creative director, Matt Lorrain. When it comes to the business of design and what effective virtual collaboration looks like, Donna, Mim, Tristrim and Matt represent four undoubtedly diverse yet entirely pertinent perspectives. The insights and observations of these four Australian architecture and design professionals, as seen from their unique vantage points, culminate in the following industry truths.  

“Now that people have become comfortable with remote ways of working and experienced the benefits of working from home, we would never want to take that away from them,” says Donna.

 

Virtual Collaboration, In Reality

In Hassell’s experience, the shift to working remotely has brought about more authentic connections says Tristrim. This applies to the perceived removal of walls between internationally spread studios, as well as the newly opened window into clients’ worlds. That window goes both ways, as highlighted by Mim who feels the more open and frequent communications offers clients a new level of insight into the design process, cultivating a deeper sense of respect as a result. In terms of workplace culture, Donna shares that two of Hayball’s three studios have reported to feel more connected to the business since the protocols surrounding COVID came into play. Its worth noting that this is more than merely a happy coincidence. “We put strategies in place to ensure a sense of connectivity while working from home – but we had no idea how powerful they would turn out to be,” the workplace design strategist says. So, now we know: we have nothing to fear of virtual collaboration. A remote workforce does not need to mean an inevitable breakdown in communications – not with clients; not with external collaborators; nor amongst internal teams. That said, there are three fundamental learnings distilled from the dialogue of our industry's experts that resound as pertinent to enabling remote design teams to work and collaborate effectively from home. Firstly, no communication method suits all; secondly, purpose and preparation make perfect; and finally, in the spirit of evolution, we must be agile and open-minded to survive.  

No Communication Method Suits All

The fickle nature of individual communication preferences is hardly unique to working remotely. Some like a spontaneous catch up – be it over the phone or in person – while others feel more comfortable interacting via channels that capture things in writing, such as email or the plethora of chat/comment mechanisms offered by the digital tools at hand. This is as true as ever.  

The shift to working remotely has brought about more authentic connections with clients, as well as within internal teams, for Hassell.

  “You can’t force a medium on anyone,” says Matt, stating a fact with which Tristrim, Donna and Mim each decidedly attest. Tristrim’s wise advice on this matter is to find what works best for each client, external collaborator and internal team on a project-by-project basis. “Finding the right mode and means is so important,” he says. Doing so has the opportunity to add exponential value to internal and external relationships alike, as evidenced in anecdotes from each of the webinar panel members. The layer of complexity added in the context of virtual collaboration is the monotony of interacting digitally. “2020 is going to be the year of digital fatigue,” Tristrim warns. While there is no surefire antidote to this problem, Tristrim’s suggestion is to try, however you might, to break up the repetitiousness of your digital interactions. “It can be as simple as getting on your phone, instead of your PC, and going for a walk while you talk,” he says.  

Purpose (And Planning) Makes Perfect

“It can be charming to hash out an agenda on the fly at the beginning of a meeting in person, but no one appreciates that lack of preparation in virtual contexts,” Donna shares as a matter of fact. Mim, Tristrim and Matt all echoed that only good can come from a pre-meeting meeting. What are the meeting objectives? What’s on the agenda? Who will bring what to the table? The answers to these questions are professed to be key to facilitating truly valuable virtual collaboration. “Since we began working from home we’ve had to reduce the size of our workshops,” shares Mim. Her eponymous studio has always been a highly communicative practice, to which collaborative workshops are integral to design. Though idealistically she avows that an open door is best policy for design workshops, restricting such sessions to only those directly involved in a project has been a necessary sacrifice in the quest to ensure collaboration from home is focused and effective.  

Company-wide calendar transparency helps the Hayball team to know who’s working on what and when, optimising opportunities for virtual collaboration.

  The value of having a clearly defined purpose and a plan of attack is not only relevant for meetings, but for individual time management too. Time-blocking is an essential ingredient for enabling effective collaboration from home, Donna, Mim, Tristrim and Matt couldn’t agree more. “I organise my days into three time-blocks: a few hours in the morning; a few hours after lunch; then maybe a couple of hours break before coming back online at night,” says Matt, describing the day structure that has helped him to find balance while working from home. Company-wide calendar transparency helps the team at Hayball to know who’s working on what and when. This works to optimise opportunities for virtual collaboration between remote design teams Donna shares. “If I can see that a team member has blocked out a certain period of time to work on a project that we share, then I can coordinate to work with or talk to them about that project at that time,” she says. Such visibility also prevents out-of-context interruptions as well as days of back-to-back meetings, by enabling people to block out down time in between tasks and/or meetings to cognitively switch contexts.  

Long Live The Agile Design Practise

“Now that people have become comfortable with remote ways of working and experienced the benefits of working from home, we would never want to take that away from them,” says Donna. As a business Hayball is taking a ‘trial and error’ type approach to establishing how things will work moving forward – embracing whatever proves to add value and leaving behind the rest. One thing in particular Hayball is interested in incorporating into its post-COVID world is more flexible working hours for all. Such an agile and open-minded approach serves as an exemplar for design businesses, one and all, moving forward. As life goes on and we learn to mitigate the systemic reforms that keep the threat of COVID at bay, ways of working remain at the mercy of the great unknown. But then again, of all the lessons to be distilled from the disrupt caused to design practises by the great pandemic of the 21st century, there is one most enlightening. That being the juxtaposition between our previous preconceptions surrounding remote ways of working, and our actual experiences of working from home. How much longer would our unfounded assumptions have held us back from realising the benefits that we now do, if COVID-19 had never occurred?  

Embrace whatever proves to add value and leave behind the rest.

  “I think that maybe this was a lesson that we had to learn,” says Matt, with specific acknowledgement of the environmental and economic benefits of practicing collaboration from home. As co-founder and creative director of SP01, a typical year would see Matt travel to Europe and/or the United States on business at least three times. At the time of the webinar, SP01 was preparing for its first significant prototype showcase to be orchestrated virtually. If all goes off without a hitch, it could change everything for the furniture design business. “The more we adapt to video conferencing, the more natural it becomes and the less need there is for travel,” Matt notes that, in the grand scheme of things, the resulting reduced energy consumption and localised operational footprint of business would be in everyone's best interests – a point with which we wholeheartedly agree. Featured image: Kiah House by Austin Maynard Architects. Photographed by Tess Kelly.abc
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What's On

Entries Are Open To The 2020 Sustainability Awards

In the seven months since the Sustainability Awards announced their 2019 winner, we have seen momentous disruption to our industry and the wider community, both domestically and internationally. As such sustainability and environmentally-sustainable design has not been immune from the huge shifts we have seem both at home and abroad. However, while news on the climate has somewhat slowed down during the global pandemic, the fact remains that sustainable design is now more important than ever, both environmentally and economically. With that said, we are excited to see entries open to the 2020 Sustainability Awards. Now in its 14th year of Architecture & Design running the awards, this year there will be 16 categories, some of which will include brand-new categories such as Sustainable Emerging Architect / Designer, Smart Building and Urban & Landscape. Along with those changes, this year there will be seven Ambassadors for the awards in addition to the seven esteemed jury members. Once again the Sustainability Awards is at the forefront of the industry and its needs. This year, for the first time ever, the awards night will be held in Melbourne realising the programme's constant desire to recognise and reward the pinnacle of sustainable design in Australia. During the day, the Sustainability Summit will bring together the highest calibre of ideas and innovation and we are all invited and encouraged to be an integral part of it. To ensure that your entry is directed to the correct category, the 16 2020 Sustainability Awards categories are as follows:  

People

Emerging Sustainable Architect / Designer

Lifetime Achievement

Women in Sustainability

Projects

Commercial Architecture (Large)

Commercial Architecture (Small)

Education & Research

Urban & Landscape

Multiple Dwelling

Single Dwelling (New)

Single Dwelling (Alteration)

Prefab & Modular

Best Adaptive Reuse

Best of the Best

Innovation

Green Building Material

Waste Elimination

Smart Building

Sustainability Awards sustainablebuildingawards.com.au

Image: Welcome to the Jungle House by CplusC Architectural Workshop, 2019 winner Single Dwelling (New)abc
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Dialling In With Richard Peters

Richard Peters is a director at Tobias Partners and a familiar and regular face at Habitus HQ. His own home, dubbed The Shed and completed in 2010, appears in Habitus issue 13 and is an artful example of adaptive reuse in a city that desperately calls for it. More recently we caught up with Richard to learn about Haxstead Garden House, a weekender for a couple on land that has been in their family for many years. Today, Richard joins us on Dialling In With Habitus to speak about how Tobias Partners has transitioned to work from home. We learn some of the pros, cons and even neutral outcomes that have come about as a result. Mostly, it’s the latter as Richards tells us of a team that took a moment to re-adjust and then continued to carry on. Richard says they’re a practice set up to deal with difficult problems and resolve them in artful ways. He looks forward to implementing new ideas for residential design and re-evaluating working models into the future. Download and listen to Dialling In With Habitus below, on Apple Podcasts, or on Spotify. Happy listening!
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