Designer/director Matiya Marovich founded Sans-Arc Studio in Adelaide in 2015. A few years later he and the business expanded to include Sam Cooper, who Matiya had met studying architecture at the University of South Australia and had since moved the Melbourne. As a result Sans-Arc Studio has always worked on remote projects and between states. But until recently the ability to jump on a plane for an important meeting or site visit was unhindered.
Not only has the team fully adapted to working with the technology that is available while travel isn’t, but they’ve also taken up on the opportunity to self reflect on instances in which it may not have been essential to travel, and look forward to taking these insights into the future in consideration of their carbon footprint.
Moreover, Matiya and his team are grateful for their ability to use the side effects of the current restrictions to enhance their creativity, productivity and as a result, their quality of work.
Can you take us through what your set up was two or three weeks ago prior to the various stages of restrictions rolling out? Then how it has changed if it has changed?
We were actually in the process of moving studio and we needed to be out by the 20th of March. At that point in time social distancing and lockdown hadn’t properly kicked off, nonetheless, at the start of the week we decided to work from home and separate ourselves.
There are three of us in the team and Astha, who is a new employee and a graduate, stayed temporarily in the studio. Sam Cooper, the other director, and I began working from home. We did that for a couple of days and once we had a gauge on how it would technically need to work we were able to finalise our IT set up and make sure everyone was comfortable.
Sam is now working from the studio and Astha transitioned to working from home. We have a big, beautiful, light-filled studio that is just being used by one person now. A bit disappointing but hopefully only temporary.
Sans Arc Studio has a heavy presence in Adelaide too; do you have a working space there?
We don’t have a team in either state as such, rather we work between the two. Sam and I go between Adelaide and Melbourne as required by the jobs we’re working on. For the moment we’re in Melbourne – and it looks like we’ll probably stay here for a while.
Are you from Adelaide? How did it come about that you work between the two states?
Yes, Sam and I went to the University of South Australia and that’s how we met. Sam moved to Melbourne six years ago or so and I started the business in Adelaide [in 2015]. A few years later I got in touch with Sam and we decided to spread the wings.
Now that you’re all working separately and from home, how are you keeping in touch and keeping up creativity? And avoiding distraction.
I’ll begin by saying that I fully acknowledge how lucky we are to still have jobs and be able to continue to work. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of distraction and creativity and I’ve been able to find a small silver lining.
There are two things I see that make up life in the city that Covid-19 has taken from us. Social connection and distraction – obviously we all miss the social connection but with the news cycle dominated by Covid-19, the constant distraction of news and events has been removed.
We’ve lost that cycle of images constantly moving through our mind, mostly via social media. We’re always stimulated, we don’t get bored and that is really problematic to creativity. Now, everyone is a little bit bored.
Meaning work can be a distraction from Covid-19, as we tire of hearing about it?
Perhaps yes, but also when we’re a little bit bored our minds run free and we can have some true creative thought. This is when the real gems come to light. I’ve found that scrolling through instagram and seeing the thousands of designers I follow and their work keeps me distracted. Sometimes I need to have an empty mind and be a little bit bored to then drift off into a spiral of thought around one of my own projects. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve heard that point be made before and it’s quite thought provoking. On that, do you think that a global disruption to a scale such as this one might make us rethink about how we have previously worked? Are there ways of working forged out of necessity now, that you’ll take back to the office?
I think the pace is a massive one, as humans we really need to slow down.
All too often we have meetings for the sake of it and because we travel there is a carbon footprint to consider. It’s nice to be able to reduce that and see that sometimes this stuff can be done over videoconferences and phone calls. Certainly not always because you do still need to have that face to face contact. I hope we carry some of these things over, and more broadly not just for Sans-Arc Studio.
Are you referring to clients only or between the team as well?
As a team we’re in the same space and all pretty productive. With clients and collaborators in particular there can be so many meetings and pre-meeting meetings.
Because we work between Adelaide and Melbourne we already Face Time our builders quite a bit and it works well; we’ll even do a site visit via Face Time. I went overseas last year to visit family in Croatia and one of our friends and collaborators Tim from Love Concrete was doing the counter at Part Time Lover, he had some queries for me so I facetimed him from the beach and talked it through.
We have a really good relationship with him so we can communicate clearly and understand what one another is talking about. I think that is imperative to any consultation over the phone.
We’ve always had to be quite organised with our schedules so that we can balance the two cities in which we work. Now, this disruption in a way has solidified the way we work in that face to face meetings aren’t as accessible as they once were.
The initial reaction was a quick push to keep in touch via video conferencing almost constantly. That’s great for keeping up collaboration, team spirit and the culture of a workplace, but, on the other hand, it’s also a sudden onslaught of additional meetings. If we’re already having to take the time to adjust to new ways and environments of work surely too many videoconferences are just as disruptive as too many meetings.
Maintaining that social connection through this time is imperative but there are too many meetings that could be emails. That would be a lovely little thing we could take into the new world if we can.
In terms of specifying materials and finishes and products how do you think you’ll navigate that space if the current circumstances don’t change soon?
We’re a bit different to other practises in some ways; we like to be quite self-directed when we look for materials. We have particular tastes and requirements around where the materials are sourced. So far it hasn’t impacted us massively, we call suppliers, request samples, and then assemble a box to ship out to the client. So it’s been okay.
What would happen in normal times?
Pretty much the same! We use the internet and we’ll go to see suppliers if they have something new we particularly like. It’s better to see materials in the flesh and our regular suppliers are all happy to ship things out quick smart.
You mentioned you have quite particular requirements in the products that you specify, what are they?
Within reason of the client’s budget and their approval, we try and use local materials as much as possible. And then we aim for renewable and materials with low or small carbon footprint. Essentially trying to be as sustainable and as environmental as we can – we’re not perfect but we try. It filters out a lot, like 80 per cent, of what’s out there when you have those requirements.
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