“Life’s too short for boring spaces.” It’s a simple, yet emphatic maxim that Monique Woodward, one of the founding directors of WOWOWA, has embraced to describe the firm’s vision.
Created in 2011, the Melbourne-based civic and residential architecture firm champions an approach to create homes reflecting their clientele’s nuance and personality. And while custom builds may not be a unique business pursuit, WOWOWA’s commitment is; refusing to work on any residential project that’s not purposed to be lived in for at least five years. “In our mind, it’s a house that’s designed to be loved,” Monique tells Habitus, later adding. “People need to emotionally buy into the narratives of the architecture. See [its] value, and to love it, to spend money on sustainability.”
While the idea of an emotional buy-in does allow for more conscious decision making – take a gas-free home for example – this notion of longevity is interesting, as often, the purpose of our buildings aren’t often discussed at length. Especially within the paradigm of sustainability, but there is an impact. According to a 2019 report released by the Australian Industry Group, Australia saw 8 808 private house approvals in February 2019. If you consider the number of resources and land required to build a single home, one built for a short-term profit has an ugly inconsistency about it.
“The paradigm of the way we talk about sustainability hasn’t worked for a really long time. It’s not making the impact that we need it to, so how do you approach it in a different way that’s around humour? Because humour’s the thing that connects us all,” Monique emphasises.
Almost every industry, to some capacity, has been influenced by this universal need for sustainability, Monique herself suggesting how the next architectural movement will be centred around sustainability, inclusivity and humour. But as she continues, Monique discusses how architecture could not only reduce its impact, it could be a solution. “…It’s how architecture should not be contributing. It needs to help reduce,” she adds.
This mentality reflects a change in the industry’s status quo. One championed by newer firms to address both environmentalism and social egalitarianism – a reality seen by the next National Australian Architecture Conference, Monique herself being one of the event’s curators.
Like any change, it’s difficult to know when it’ll occur. What is clear though is that WOWOWA’s prioritisation for longevity and connectivity reflect how consciousness as a concept is beginning to be embraced, and prioritised, within all architecture. “I think each generation has their own social concerns and construct. For us, it’s starting to see what ours is and to unpack that.”
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