How and when did you realise your passion for design? How did you get your start in the industry?
I realised my passion for design really early on. My father is an architect and I spent much of my childhood visiting his office and projects. It was in my 3rd year of architecture that I really began to understand the power of design in making a positive change in society, and becoming obsessed with theoretical work by people such as Rem Koolhaas and Archigram.
I started working in practice during 2nd year. I’ve worked in almost all scales of practice on public and private buildings and eventually went out on my own in 2014, working as a freelance architectural assistant across London before returning to Australia and starting Five Mile Radius.
What was your motivation for starting Five Mile Radius?
I was driven to create a work environment that felt really creative and connected to materiality. I really wanted to touch materials, and understand where they came from, and so Five Mile was a bit of a dream to create a practice that could allow for that. I was also motivated to explore Australian materiality as much as possible and continue to develop a palette for buildings that really spoke of this place.
Five Mile Radius has a key focus in the use of local materials. Can you tell us why this is so important to your practice?
We generally look for local suppliers and partner with them through projects to shine a spotlight on Australian manufacturing. Whenever we get a project, it’s’ about rigorous research into the context to begin with. We will look at what materials are around us and then consider how we can use them to positively impact the global economy. We also make sure we aren’t damaging the local environment and ensure there is a disassembly strategy which is locally appropriate. I guess the approach with local materials as much as possible, is to really look after the environment and community around you.
Can you tell us about your approach to design?
At Five Mile Radius we focus on sustainability, so apart from looking for local materials, we also try to recycle and use as much waste material as possible. That’s something that informs our work more and more.
The most sustainable building is no building at all, so we try to use less, working with builders to construct things efficiently so we don’t have an excess of wastage on site.
Another key thing that is often neglected is that you need to use non-toxic materials. It’s important to understand all the chemicals that are being used in contemporary construction and try to design something that has as few hazardous materials as possible.
Our principles are listed on our website and we aim to adhere to these when we make anything.
You spent 6 years in the UK after you completed your degree. Can you tell us about what led you there?
I travelled to the UK to work for architect Sir Peter Cook, in a studio called CRAB Architects, and to also study at a school called the Architectural Association in London.
In Australia I’d been really interested in the theoretical projects of European architects, in dense styles of housing, forms of transport or new arrangements for working that challenge everyday society. This was what drew me to the UK, as there were so many architects there with these big ideas, and London was a good opportunity for me to connect with these thinkers.
Has travel remained a source of inspiration for you throughout your career?
Five Mile Radius was a practice born of travels in India, so a lot of our philosophies and materials are derived from India. We have been back there many times over the past few years to draw more inspiration or pursue projects there. I think we have so much to learn from the sensibilities of other cultures that can inform our work. We also need to understand and travel Australia more so we can discover or rediscover our own materiality for modern construction.
What is the best part of your job?
There are lots of great things. The best part is the sense of community that surrounds our practice. We work with lots of young architects and students who seem to really respond to some of the themes of the practice. We really enjoy the Five Mile family and the freedom of being able to pursue our ideas that aren’t necessarily following a traditional practice model, which frees us up to experiment with new ways of working. Clare Kennedy is the latest guest featured on Brickwork’s latest podcast series, Architects Abroad. In this series, design aficionado Tim Ross sits down with some of Australia’s most esteemed architects discuss how travel has shaped them both personally and professionally.
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