Meet Carly Barrett, founder of Open House Perth

Founder of Open House WA, Carly Barrett.

A champion of great design, Carly Barrett tells where Perth’s architecture scene is heading and reveals her favourite Open House.
Since founding Open House Perth in 2011, the organisation’s creative director Carly Barrett has been a champion of the city’s architecture and design scene. Committed to keeping the conversation about good design flowing between the industry and the public, she’s enabled unparalleled access to some of Perth’s most remarkable builds. We chat to Carly about why this annual event is so important for both those who create spaces and those who use them.
What impact does Open House Perth have on the city’s architecture scene?
We’ve created a stronger link between the general public and design industry professionals. This is the beginning of what we hope will be cultural change in the west – where people understand it’s not about the quantity of space but the quality. We’ve also successfully demonstrated that not only is style personal, but good design is universal. And good design should be seen as a value-add, not a prime cost.
What do regular punters get out of going along?
Inspiration. That almost feels like a dirty word in Australia. We’ll go overseas, see an amazing building and be happy to declare how inspired we feel but, unfortunately, we’re much tighter lipped at home. Open House Perth enables audiences to embrace design in a way that changes consumer culture, from where people buy coffee to the size of their homes.

The Ash by Dalecki Design featured in Open Houses WA. Photography by Dion Robeson.

What’s your take on the current state of architecture in WA?
I wish we had more of it! I wish we had legislative parameters for compulsory use of an architect over certain sizes, comparable to some states in the east. Western Australia has always been home to architectural innovation, particularly in the housing sector, and I believe this will grow in momentum. Many may not realise that the cost of materials and construction in WA can be up to 40 per cent more than on the east coast. That means, as designers, we’re compelled to make every design move count.
Has the mining boom had a significant effect?
It’s largely had an impact on costs and project procurement. Recent projects like Yagan Square, with its beautifully dynamic corten form, is the first building in some time to take regional WA on, and embed that in architecture and urbanism.

Yagan Square // Architects: Lyons & Iredale Pedersen Hook. Landscape Architect: Aspect Studios. Artist: Jon Tarry. Photography: Gary Peters.

What’s been your favourite project featured?
House A by Whispering Smith; every time it’s been opened, it’s had 2000 people visit per four-hour period. It’s the home of an architect and her partner. The passion and struggle they went through with their local government to green light the project, and the resulting attention it has received, is a true testament to the talent involved. It seriously makes me cry a bit, because I see people who visit the home “getting it”.
What does the future look like for architecture in Perth?
Smaller, stronger, friendlier, healthier, diverse and more sustainable. Our state government is in the process of upgrading residential design codes, which is helping things along. Given our natural assets we should be global leaders in sustainable architecture and building technologies. The talent pool is here to do it.

Learn more about Open House Perth (next event to be held 16-17 November 2019).

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