Welcome to our 2018 mentees!

Mentorship 2018 BW

It’s that time of year again where we’re fortunate enough to have our first Preparing for Practice mentorship session with 6 fantastic women who are in their final year of Architecture. We’re looking forward to the rest of the year and the many discussions to be had surrounding architecture and professional practice in the hopes that these women are better set up for their future in the profession. To find out more about our mentees for 2018, please visit the ‘mentee’ tab on our website!



Michael Smith

The Australian architecture profession is lucky to have some exceptional leaders guiding the profession. One such leader is the incoming National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, Clare Cousins. Renowned for her exceptional design quality through her practice Clare Cousins Architects and her leadership on the AIA National Council, Clare was an inspired choice for the role of National President. 

In a special interview released for International Women’s Day, Clare discusses her career path to date as well as her vision for the profession into the future.  

Michael Smith – Starting back at the beginning, what was your university experience like?

Clare Cousins – I studied architecture at RMIT. I think it’s a challenge for a high school student to decide what they want to do and where they want to study.

Looking back, RMIT was the right choice for me – coming from a maths and science high school experience, RMIT teased out the creativity in me.

I liked that RMIT employed architecture practitioners as lecturers and tutors, like Kerstin Thompson who I had in first semester. This seemed to be a point of difference in 1994, perhaps it’s much more common now. It was Sand Helsel’s first year at RMIT when I started; an exciting time to have a female head of architecture. I remember her saying in her opening speech that the person you’re sitting next to is likely to become a great friend. Well, I was sitting next to Mel Bright (Make Architecture) and how right Sand was.

MS – What were the numbers of women like in your cohort? Was it fairly even?

CC – I was never particularly conscious of gender balance, perhaps having studied at a co-ed high school, I don’t recall there being any disparity. There were greater discrepancies within other courses in the same building: construction, fashion and interior design.

MS – What was your first architectural job and what was that experience like?

CC – It was a hard time to find work in 1994; quite a few architects were driving cabs. I managed to secure work experience at a small practice with traditional values. We would all sit together for morning tea as drinks were not allowed at the desk for fear of spilling them on the drafting film. The office was a quiet space with a few architects and experienced draftsmen working with the sound of opera wafting from the director’s office. The experience was a great introduction to architecture practice assisting where I could: printing, colouring plans, filing the trade library and occasionally visiting sites. In second year, I secured a part-time job with a practice in a Fitzroy warehouse working on hospitality and residential projects – a completely different work environment.

I studied abroad for a semester and then traveled for six months. Returning to Melbourne, I worked at the Prince of Wales in the construction team part-time while studying. It was a great opportunity to work on projects designed by well-known Melbourne architects, including Wood Marsh. It gave me a different understanding of constructability: working from a site office, establishing healthy working relationships with trades.

MS –  And that lead to Wood Marsh?

CC – Yes, that’s where I met Wood Marsh.

After graduating I was determined to work for Wood Marsh. Not considering other practices, I hassled them for six months via phone and fax. I didn’t know many practices at the time; however, now with social media and blogs students are more aware and there’s greater accessibility to practices.

Between faxes, I did interior design bits and pieces, designed a few kitchens and a few small jobs while I waited for a position. Looking back, I can’t believe how determined I was – a real pain in the butt!

MS – What advice would you have for those in the profession who are approaching registration?

CC – It’s much easier if you can apply actual experience rather than just theoretical knowledge.

Not all practices can offer the same breadth of experience. Often small practice can provide graduates and students a broad experience, but the projects may be less complex. It depends what you are interested in. For me, working in small practices gave me close access to the director and senior architects where I was able to learn by listening and observing.

You don’t have to be the project architect to have exposure to the issues. In our open plan office, everyone learns from each other’s wins and challenges. I think that’s really valuable. Unless you aspire to open your own practice immediately, don’t rush the registration process.

MS – So when did you decide to start your own practice?

CC – I don’t think there was a light bulb moment, I think I just always wanted to be the captain of my own ship at some point. Perhaps I thought it would provide flexibility with family life down the track.


Baffle House by Claire Cousins Architects
(Photo: Lisbeth Grosmann)

MS – Within five years you have gone from winning the Emerging Architect Prize to now being the President-Elect of the Australian Institute of Architects, which is an amazing professional achievement. Has it felt that quick?

CC – A lot can happen in five years, so it doesn’t feel that quick. I didn’t have an aspiration to take on the president role until the day before the election, and I still wasn’t sure when I put my hand up. I’ve always been open to opportunities and learning new skills; however, I needed more of a push with this one. The encouragement of my friends and husband helped me decide to take on the role.

My involvement at the Institute has been incremental: from joining a committee, then Chapter Council, National Council and now President-Elect and the Board. The main reason I’m involved in the Institute is because of the people. People supporting one another and collectively making a healthier profession. Architecture is a challenging profession so it’s important to have trusted colleagues that you can lean on for advice, even though we’re often competing for the same work. People that started as colleagues have become great friends, like Amy Muir (Muir Architecture), who I met on a committee a few years ago and is now the Institute’s incoming Victorian President.

MS – For your upcoming year as President, do you have any areas of focus that you would like the Institute to steer towards?

CC – It has been great sitting on National Council for the last few years to gain a better understanding of the national issues affecting the profession. The Institute has had its challenges a few years ago; however, there are some amazing people that have really put a lot of hard work into giving the Institute a new focus, Jon Clements (JCB Architects) in particular.

I think, from the outside too, members may not be aware where things are heading, but the Institute is in a much better position now. The next few years, and beyond, are going to be particularly exciting with a much stronger focus on advocacy for the profession, education and supporting members.

As far as a presidential focus for me, there are two key issues: housing affordability and sustainability. They’re both huge issues and there is a lot of ground to cover.

MS – Where would you like to see the profession head over the next five to ten years?

CC – I would like to see a more unified front. While there is a healthy collegiate environment in Victoria, particularly with small and medium practice forums, it’s important as the peak body to have a really strong voice in order for us to advocate to government, developers and the public to promote the value that architects bring to the built environment. The bigger and stronger we are as a united voice, the more likely we will be heard.

Other sectors are starting to understand the value of design thinking, a skill architects use daily. It is exciting to think how architects might work, less traditionally, in the future to problem solve and not just in the built environment.

MS – Since last year we have seen the rise of a global movement, outing perpetrators of sexual harassment, under the united banner of #MeToo. This started in Hollywood, but has spread to media organisations and politicians. Do you think architecture needs a #MeToo moment? Do you think there is a reckoning to come?

CC – I think what’s remarkable about the #MeToo movement, is that sometimes there needs to be watershed moment to give people the confidence to stand up for themselves and for others.

It is not just about women supporting women, it’s society supporting women. While a lot of the focus is on gender, these challenges are also relevant to diversity in general: people of different cultures, minority groups and sexual orientation.

Parlour has done a lot of great work to unpack the issue of gender in our profession and provide tangible data; however, our profession still has a long way to go to balancing the scales.

MS – The hottest topic in architecture in Victoria right now is the issue surrounding the Apple store at Federation Square. Do you have any thoughts on the commentary surrounding that issue, speaking from your own professional view point?

CC – It has been great to see how vocal and passionate Victorians and Melbournians are about their public space, which as an architect is very exciting.

I’m hopeful there will be an opportunity for some public consultation and think that if there are to be any physical changes made to Fed Square that these should be in response to a considered masterplan for the site.

MS – I thought Vanessa Bird’s articulation of the Institute point of view and their request for the master plans, was particularly on point.

CC – If you’re going build a garden, you don’t just start planting in one corner and see what you end up with. You need a plan. The Apple store can’t be seen as an isolated project, it needs to address the complexities of the site.

MS – Thank-you for your time

Architecture is for everyone

Lead photo credit  – John O’Rourke

Originally posted on theredandblackarchitect.com

Preparing for Practice


Chelsea Doorne

After (a minimum) five long years of architecture school, it’s finally over and time to transition into full time employment as an Architectural Graduate. Naturally, the experience changes depending on whether one has worked in a firm throughout their studies, or starting from scratch. However, the transition between the life of an architecture student and that of a graduate can be a tricky one that brings into focus the lessons taught (and not taught) during architecture school.

Upon writing this article, I looked to see if others had documented their transition between student and graduate life, but I could find little more than a sentence here and there. This transition is entirely personal and reliant on my own experiences and those of my peers, and should not be taken as scripture.

Architecture school is hard. While seated in graduation watching a compilation of other students reminiscing about their time at university and what they’ll miss about student life, I and other students wearing the bright magenta hoods of the architecture faculty noticed a distinct difference between our experiences versus those in other disciplines. While they were recounting their incredible social lives and the countless parties they attended, we were likely sleep deprived and under levels of stress that were able to be counted by the bags under our eyes. There were times when fun was had, but there was a definite disparity between our experiences and those of the other coloured hoods in the ceremony. Despite its long list of well document faults, spanning from high levels of mental health issues, unhealthy working hours and a renowned nightmare-like critique culture, it is also a degree which encourages creativity, complex problem solving and emphasises a utopian mentality of designing a world better for yourself and the community as a whole.  It is a profession in which you need to know ‘a little about a lot’ and there are very few set classes or practice exams that can truly determine what the field involves. The concrete lessons in transitioning from a student to a graduate however, rarely show themselves in a directly in the coursework, but can be drawn from external realisations having now having left architecture school and entering the workforce.

  1. Architecture School is a Bubble

It is important to remember that architecture is a life choice, but should not be considered as a complete lifestyle. Between the long hours and the studio project that is never quite finished, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing a world does not exist outside of architecture school. It was this long haul of hard work, dedication and focus that led me to believe upon the submission of my final thesis project I would be met with a moment of fulfilment, accompanied by the sunshine and rainbows which I had missed during my time in the architecture school hole. But I wasn’t. In fact, it was rather anticlimactic and despite there being feelings of relief and excitement, it did not feel relative to what I had just accomplished. Suddenly, architecture school did not feel like the most important part of my life, despite taking up a substantial chunk of it for the better part of 6 years. There is a whole world going on outside of school and the pressures that exist there, which leads me to my next point….

  1. Grades Are Not Everything

It is easy to say this now, but it was a struggle to wrap my head around this while studying. While great results are not to be undervalued, sacrificing a mark here or there will not affect job prospects. And from my personal experience and that of my peers, it is not common to be asked by an architectural firm for your academic transcript. When your mental health is struggling or you’re presented with an opportunity that takes up precious studio time, consider your options before retreating back into studio life. This is particularly relevant when opportunities to attend industry events arise as they will often provide more insight and beneficial outcomes than the couple of hours you would have otherwise spent mostly focused on studio.

One of the most relevant examples of this is the upcoming Presentation to Juries, often held at the Melbourne School of Design. Despite this occurring just shy of mid-semester presentations, the experience of attending these talks is invaluable. From watching how the professionals present their designs and field questions from a jury, to gaining exposure to what and who is current in the Victorian Architecture scene, and the subsequent networking opportunities that may arise. However, while the who’s who of Victorian architecture are presenting in the spaces around the faculty for free, it’s common to see students hunched over their laptops oblivious to the invaluable advice and insight that is happening around them. Taking time off from studio to meet and greet those who will be future colleagues and connections, if only for a couple of hours, is definitely worth the potential half a mark you may miss had you sat huddled around your computer. And realistically, how much work do you really get done on a Saturday? The presentations this year are on the 24th of March.

  1. Networking is Important

Architecture firms can range in size from large to very small, which means there often aren’t any structured graduate programs to ease the transition from student to working professional. Building on the previous point, networking is an invaluable asset in our career. The architecture community in Melbourne is tightknit and absolutely bursting with industry events that are open to all levels of the profession. Attending these events, such as the Presentation to Juries, New Architects Melbourne, Process, Melbourne Open House, and events hosted by SONA and Parlour are an opportunity to gain insight into what the community is like. By attending these events you will be given opportunities to introduce yourself to those who attend regularly, establish connections and develop an insight into what life as a working architect is really like prior to graduation.

  1. Get Involved

Unfortunately, architecture is a profession plagued with a myriad of well documented issues, ranging from mental health to gender inequality. However, moves are being made to remedy these matters to encourage an inclusive, healthy profession by numerous organisations. Parlour does brilliant work with a focus on work/life balance, and equity within the architecture realm. Their guides on combatting the long hours culture, and their dedication to improving gender equality in the profession make Parlour an excellent resource for all things architecture and the workplace. Gender inequality within architecture is definitely an issue, with women representing roughly 20% of registered architects in Australia. Given females account for over 40% of students in architecture school, this figure is needs to change.  Mentoring programs such as women@RMIT provides career advice for women entering male dominated industries while the Atelier Red+Black Preparing for Practice Mentorship program aims to reduce the gender gap through the mentoring of a select number of female Master of Architecture students. Post-graduation, programs such as the Australian Institute of Architects Constructive Mentoring Program provide graduates with 4 years of experience with a support network in the industry with a focus on career development, networking and business and management skills.

  1. Critiques Aren’t All Bad

While the critique culture of architecture has its problems and undeniably needs to change, there are also benefits to be drawn out of presenting and defending your designs to a jury and your peers. Skills in articulation, timing and visual and verbal presentation are invaluable. It’s common to field questions which can vary from what the strategic vision is of your masterplan to why you chose to use that style of font. Communication is an integral part of working within the design profession and the experience of presenting a design or scheme is a skill which can set you up in all aspects of life, as well as architecture. You need to be able to communicate in different ways while still getting your point across; from presenting to your director, a client or a consultant, your message needs to be clear despite shifts in the delivery made to suit your audience.  Treat presenting as an opportunity to learn how to field questions from every angle, defend your design and respond to suggestions with diplomacy and tact. Setting your phone to record your critique is handy not only because you’ll then have all your feedback on record, but you’ll be able to review what parts of your presentation work well for your scheme, and what aspects of your delivery need to change.

  1. Work Experience is Invaluable

Working while studying is a balancing act, but the benefits gained by working in the industry prior to graduation far outweigh the difficulties. The experience gained from working in a firm is invaluable and can often pair nicely with your studies, be that through construction knowledge, software experience or communication skills. The time restrictions in practice also can lead to better time management in the studio sphere as you need to embody the motto of ‘working smarter, not harder’. It is important to realise when to draw the [final] line in lieu of sacrificing hours to sourcing the perfect bird silhouettes.  Having this experience also aids in the job search following graduation and can help you stand out from the less experienced graduates you’re competing against if not lead to a career opportunity altogether.

  1. Time Management is Vital

The all-nighter culture of architecture school is well documented and a badge often worn with pride. As someone who relished in the fact that she managed only 10 hours of sleep over four days, I am guilty of this. However, the deeper I got into my degree, the more I realised that had I just managed my time properly, I likely wouldn’t have needed to calculate the perfect length of time for a nap to trick my body into being less exhausted (90 minutes). The reality is, you probably won’t be able to work consistently on one project for 16 hours a day until you’ve come up with the solution in the professional sphere. You need to be able balance a myriad of tasks while negotiating the deadlines of various projects and still go home at a reasonable time.

  1. Seize Every Opportunity You Can

The architecture community is a tight one, and there are a number of opportunities open to students and graduates alike which can provide unique and varying levels of insight into the profession. In class, getting involved with practice-based studios and studios led by industry professionals can offer diluted insight into life in practice. Attending the end of semester exhibitions at schools other you’re your own can inspire a different way of thinking to what you’re usually exposed to. Seeking other avenues of learning from blogs, podcasts and events with a Q&A component allow for a broader view point which can be applied to your studies.  Opportunities outside of the classroom are abundant and can provide a much more multi-faceted view of the architecture profession and encourage you to develop your views and skills in other relevant areas. Alternatively, there are an abundance of programs and platforms which can improve and provide skills that are beneficial within the professional sphere. SONA run a vast number of events which encourage interaction with the professional sphere such as industry night, Networking night, Portfolio Speed Dating and a number of open debates. Additionally, architecture is a career which embodies flexibility and there are many caps to wear within a firm, from project management to 3D visualisations, to report writing, photography, technical drawing and diagramming.  Taking advantage of learning these skills is important and can allow for more opportunities within your career progression.

Hopefully these points provide an insight into the life of a Graduate of Architecture while delivering an aspect of comfort when it feels like architecture school isn’t entirely helpful. It’s a hard degree, but the rewards are definitely worth it, even with the permanent dark eye circles.

Originally posted on theredandblackarchitect.com

The Dark Side of Architectural Education


Chelsea Doorne

Architecture is one of the most intense university courses one can pursue.  Chelsea Doorne, a fourth year Master of Architecture student, shines a torch on the dark side of the architecture student experience. 

Architecture school and dedication are synonymous, however more often than not, this devotion to the art of design comes at a cost.

A recent survey conducted by the Architects Journal documented that 1 in 4 architecture students are suffering from mental health issues, with a further 26% stating that they would likely seek treatment and professional help in the future. This is hardly surprising given that when searching ‘architecture student’, images of solitary students crouched over models are accompanied by a smattering of ‘memes’ depicting feelings of rejection, chaos, and most predominantly, forced insomnia. This deeply embedded culture of overworking and negativity is one of the primary reasons why mental health is such a prevalent issue within the architectural student community.

Long hours are one of the most recognisable traits of the architecture student community, with almost 1 in 3 students reporting that they work through the night on a regular basis. This common place experience of sleep deprivation within architecture school is widely known and also referenced by a number of blogs such as architorture school. Among students, stating your longest time awake can become akin to a competition, and often be seen as an implied level of success in the studio realm. This normalising of nocturnal study isn’t just supported by students, with there being an expectation to work throughout the night imposed by many tutors. The large workload of the degree, noted as being one of the heaviest, can also contribute to the frequency of ‘all-nighters’ with the design process demanding an unquantifiable number of hours. It is common for a designer to feel that the process is never truly complete, even when the final deadline has long passed. With one often feeling as though a large amount of improvements which can be made, unlike a finance report, for instance, which is completed when all the data has been entered.

The ever present threat of time, or lack thereof, is added to by the expectation of students to work part time in firms to gain experience and in the case of some universities, it is a requirement for graduation. In a course where, particularly at Masters level, most timetables demand the full five days of study, many students are skipping classes to satisfy these demands. The high requirement of these hours along with the prevalence of some internships that (illegally) pay in ‘experience’ over money, lead to many students experiencing financial difficulties throughout their degree. Although the job market for architects is currently looking positive, it is also highly competitive and many universities no longer offer study placement programs, making these positions increasingly difficult to secure. This stress of gaining necessary, yet difficult to find experience, coupled with the already stressful study period is a large contributing factor to the poor mental health of architecture students.

These monetary stresses extend into the cost of study which is notoriously expensive. While university text books are expensive across the board, the constant need to print and construct models can often blow an already tight student budget, with some models costing in excess of $300, and printing frequently exceeding $100 per presentation. These expenses (coupled with expensive software, computers and the cost of travel for site visits), can force many students to switch to a part-time load, adding time to an already lengthy degree.

“The overarching costs of the degree as a whole, when coupled with poor pay and employment prospects, paint a bleak outlook for the average architecture student.”

The critique or design review of the architecture degree is well known from day one in architecture school, and the negative stigma that surrounds it is intrinsically linked to the design culture. Design is not as simple as a yes or no answer that can be found in other faculties, such as engineering, instead, it is subjective, leading to confusion between a critic’s opinions versus how the project is received in the studio class among tutors. These critiques are feared throughout the faculty and many students accept that they will often receive a bad comment or a terrible review, regardless of the number of hours and effort devoted to a design proposal. Design is an intensely personal endeavour and is not too dissimilar to an art piece, with heart, soul, sweat and tears being poured into a project. This brings an additional intensity to the critique process and makes a negative reception much more distressing. To those students who are already suffering from mental illness, the toll can be devastating, particularly when coupled with running on little-to-zero sleep, often poor nutrition and an already volatile state of mind, this can only lead to negative outcomes for the student.

It is not uncommon to see a shift in the demeanour of students throughout the semester. Ask someone how they are in the early weeks is answered with an upbeat, “great”, or “looking forward to the semester” or something of the like. Ask the same person  in week 7 and you’re looking at a less than jovial response. They’re likely either “tired”, or just “fine”. This dramatic shift in attitude in less than two months is sadly commonplace among students.

One of the primary issues with this negative ethos of studio critique is that it is deeply rooted in architecture culture and widely accepted, if not expected. The critics of today do not feel it is an overly harsh response as they were treated the same in their time at architecture school, much like their tutors before them. It is normalised and expected that tears and breakdowns will follow a critique and this is where the issue lies. Yes, we need to be prepared for the inevitable future of practice which may involve an imposing director and a less than content client. However when students are learning, this breaking of their spirit through a ruthless critique does little more than demotivate and encourage a negative outlook in the architecture field, contributing to the low mental health state throughout the faculty.

Until this cycle of pessimism and demoralisation is broken, we can only expect that the mental health of architecture students will continue to be poor, particularly when a bleak economic outlook is added into the mix for future candidates.

Further reading:



Professor Peter Raisbeck writes an excellent blog covering some of these issues

 5 ways architecture students can avoid a mental health meltdown

Important: If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, make sure you get help from your general practitioner or organisations such as The Black Dog Institute or Headspace.

(originally published on ‘The Red and Black Architect’ by Chelsea Doorne here.)

So You’re About to Begin Studying Architecture?

Mentee Amelia Cloney provides her tips for current architecture students


Over the last five years studying there are a few things I’ve learnt that I wish I had known earlier. As I finish my studies and you start yours I hope this will give you a good head start!

  1. Be yourself: Architects come in all shapes and sizes and if anything being different is your greatest asset. Just because everyone is trying to become the next “Corbs” or Zaha doesn’t mean you have to be. Find out what you like and where your interest lie and push those boundaries. While being inspired by your fellow students work can be a benefit it isn’t the be-all and end-all if your work doesn’t match up in style; you’ll develop your own.
  2. Inspiration: Inspiration is such a tricky subject, my best advice on this one is to keep your eyes open because you never know when it’s going to hit! Make a habit of keeping a pen, notebook on you, as cliche as it is I have been caught more than once asking for a pen so I can scribble a thought on a napkin while grabbing a coffee. Recently I was inspired for a project while I was chatting to a friend about my food truck obsession. But unfortunately there are times when you will completely struggle to find an idea or a start point, in these cases I will pass on the advice of one of my lectures “Change it up”. Blank page *or rhino* syndrome is worse when your staring at it. Go for a jog, watch some Grand Design (a totally valid study break option), have a cup of tea, flick through Pinterest, (…& ArchDaily, Yellow Trace, Design Boom) have a cider with a friend, get an inspiring architecture book, talk to someone about your project and your total design crisis. You’ll be surprised how doing this can help open your mind again. Should your black page problem persist? Just do something, anything! It’s amazing how just getting something down and returning to it later can result in something worthwhile. And, most importantly, speak to your tutor, they will appreciate your effort and struggle as they have been there too.
  3. Jack of all Trade: Architecture has a thousand elements, forms, theories and rabbit holes to go down and it can be quite over whelming. We range from discussions on the latest sustainable material, government planning policy, OMA’s latest commission, May 1968, biomimicry, the latest rendering techniques, building methodologies – I could go on and on. But it’s important to understand that you cannot possibly know it all inside out, sure if something sparks your interest explore it but taking a broad brush approach and knowing a little about everything is at times the only way through.
  4. Resilience: A Critique is by its nature is a criticism of your work! One of the most frightening parts I found coming into Architecture was the dreaded critique. However, it has also been one of the most beneficial parts, and this is coming from someone who has been left in tears after a particularly harsh critique in her second year! Being able to get up in front of a group of mostly strangers and present your concept is an essential skill for becoming a professional architect. It provides an opportunity to learn how to answer what are at times difficult questions about your ideas and approach. It is also a chance to get some great feedback from an experienced group of architects, so you can learn where you can improve for next time. However, as mentioned above, these critiques don’t all go well, not only have I had a negative experience myself but I have also witnessed other students going downhill due to difference of opinion or a picky juror. The important thing to remember is not to take it personally, take on board the advice and build your resilience. At other times you will know full well your project is a bit of a disaster and it can be a real blow to your confidence, but its important to get back up on the horse, view it as a learning experience and keep going!
  5. Be kind to yourself: Studying architecture can be an incredibly time (life) consuming adventure that takes a big toll on your social life and on your health (physical and mental). And making sure you set aside time for healthy eating habits (mee goreng noodles 3 times a day is not great), exercise (even if it’s just a stroll in the sunshine), a good amount of sleep and even the occasional night off to hang with friends – are all key to surviving and thriving. Every semester the stress gets to me at some point, and it took me a few years to understand that getting the balance right was more important than a high distinction. Surround yourself with an understanding support team, family and friends and fellow students, but also be prepared to reach out to your tutors, student advisors and seek professional help if you need it. And learn to reward yourself! Go out for that celebration when you hand in the assignment worth a shocking 70% of your grade, take that yoga class that gives you the hour of zen you deserve, and head to the footy to scream your lungs out with your mates.
  6. Be prepared to work hard: My architecture degree has been the hardest undertaking of my life but it has also been the most rewarding. I would love to say to you that it’s all fun, and while it is at times, there is no denying there is a lot of hard work, late nights, last minute submissions and missed social occasions. Be prepared to present your concept again and again for your tutor to only have them turn around and say start again. Get ready to learn at least 5 different modelling, photo editing, and cad programs (probably at the same time). Start recalling the hundreds of influential architects, theories, movements you will need to call on for you designs. Moments of panic during your final printing as you realise you have left off north points. Hoping to the god’s of architecture that your jurors do not realise that your model is completely mirrored as you forgot to reverse it on the laser cutter. Look forward to some long nights waiting for your final render to complete, and enjoy your midnight visits to emergency because you cut your hand building a blue foam model.And get ready to have your whole world changed as the study of architecture is an incredibly eye opening experience where creative thinking is key. But it also this strange club you’ve just become apart of. This will most likely only make sense to you after your first studio submission, experiencing the wildness that process brings, the characters it creates, and the pure moment of satisfaction you get seeing your ideas completed, printed panels, drawings and models. My adventure into architecture has been one of the best things I have done in my life – embrace it and enjoy it!7. Finally… SAVE AND BACK UP YOUR WORK. Seriously. Hard drive, USB and the Cloud. You’ll thank me later.

f0FDP3Z - Imgur


(originally published on ‘That Architecture Student’ by Anthony Richardson here.)

IMG_7064Amelia began her studies the University of Canberra before moving to Melbourne to complete her Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne in 2014 and currently employed as a draftsperson. She is about the begin the “terrifying” journey of design thesis and then will be moving in to the real world. She is interested in sustainability, materiality, interior design, finally having some time to head back overseas and making the perfect G&T.

You can find her here:
Instagram: @arc.design_

Open House 2015: Exploration and Curiosity

Over the weekend buildings across Melbourne threw open their doors for the annual Open House Melbourne event. This year reviewing buildings for the Red+Black Architect blog are an enthusiastic group of final year architecture students.

Cairo Flats

Review by Dena Barr

Cairo Flats 3

This example of high density living in Melbourne was built many decades ago yet stands to answer some questions many Melbournians are asking of apartments today. Cairo Flats’ character remains vibrant despite its age and shows that combating housing pressures in the face of rapid population increase may be as simple as a shift in expectations. The Better Apartments discussion paper recently released and The Better Living Forum (an event held as part of Open House Melbourne) demonstrate that apartment design in Melbourne is under scrutiny. One of the major questions relates to whether minimum square meter requirements are necessary to increase amenity in new apartments. Cairo flats is a great example of how small apartments can feel like double the size through smart design. Direct access to outdoor space and ample windows make the rooms feel larger. Ceiling heights of 2.9 meters and softly rendered corners give the illusion of space. Furthermore, clever curtain design transforms the studio apartment between uses within seconds. When the curtain is drawn closed along the window, there is privacy from the common courtyard, the bed and wardrobe is exposed and the rooms feels like a bedroom. When the curtain sits in front of the wardrobe the light is allowed in and a living space is revealed. The sense of community was evident during the tour and is probably instigated through exposed central walkways and directly accessible common spaces such as the internal courtyard and the large roof terrace.


Forte Apartments

Review by Dena Barr

Forte 04

You wouldn’t realise that you are looking at the world’s tallest Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) apartment building if you passed it. The only suggestion from the street that the construction methodology differs from its neighbours are the timber soffits. This theme continues inside the building, where the apartment appears like any other – floorboards and one feature wall in the living area are the only timber visible. The bathrooms are pods that were prefabricated in Queensland, whilst the structure was prepared in Europe with details such as electrical service channels designed in before shipping. A cross section of the structural system was on display as part of the tour and showed the floor to wall connection – Floor to ceiling looked to be about 450mm including ceiling plasterboard, insulation, another layer of plasterboard, CLT, rubber, screed and floor covering. The most interesting part of the tour for me was the emergency stair where the CLT remained exposed; producing the warmest feeling emergency staircase I have ever used. Whilst I suspect that this method of construction would be more viable if CLT were manufactured in Australia, we were told that Lendlease envisions using aspects of this technology in the future.


Hello House

Review by Amelia Cloney

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At the Hello House Tour I was glad I chose to park down the street so I had the opportunity to be greeted by the big brickwork HELLO which forms the western street facing facade. The tour began in the original shopfront victorian terrace which is currently being used as a art studio space by the owner and artist Rose Nolan. We were given an wonderful talk by Nolan and the architect Fooi-Ling Khoo, OOF! Architecture about the inspirations for the rear addition. The collaboration between client and architect was long but resulted in a well thought through design that reflected the context of the heritage rich site, that put on show the craftsmanship of not only the architect but the trades involved (in particular the brick layer!), as well as Nolan’s graphic and font based artworks. While the home uses materials more traditionally thought of as industrial, the structural plywood, concrete and brickwork provided a surprisingly warm finish, although the beautiful curtains and underfloor hydronic heating probably aided this as well. It was a real privilege to get such a personal look at the Hello House, who knows maybe one day I’ll be able to guide a tour through a design of my own.


Northcote Hemp Houses

Review by Megha Joshi

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Walking the street, it is not hard to find this house as it does speak out for itself from rest of the houses in the neighborhood.  This residence is a fine example of sustainable building using Hempcrete walls and Rammed Earth walls in the design.

Our tour guide Dione explained the design ideas conceived by Steffen Welsch Architects,  while taking us through the house. On entering the house, you see this beautifully textured honey coloured Hemp wall which helps regulate humidity and acoustics with a small courtyard facing the wall, with a timber staircase going along it. This staircase to me acted no less than a design element of the house. The stairwell acts as wind tower in the house regulating the airflow in the building.

Walking further down, you enter into the open kitchen overlooking another courtyard and also acts as the focal point of the house as it has views to all the spaces. Another major feature of the house is the rammed earth walls, which help in increasing the thermal mass of the building and also help in regulating acoustics.

Another feature that caught my eye were the skillfully designed bay windows on the upper level rooms which provide privacy and views and also bring in ample daylight into the rooms. Interestingly, the window operating systems were quite amazing. That feature is something all the houses should have!

The architects have also included rainwater harvesting system that stores up to 10,000 litres of rainwater. This residence is a great approach to sustainable design and the architects have successfully achieved it and it also gives that warm, cozy feeling in the house.



Old Treasury Building

Review by Megha Joshi

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One of the finest architectural buildings of nineteenth century in Australia, standing tall with grandeur in the city of Melbourne, Old Treasury Building portrays the development of this city. This well-proportioned rectangular building signifies its existence by where it sits, looking towards Collins Street.

The proportions of this building, both with respect to itself  and at an urban scale, were very well thought out by architect J J Clarke, by providing a flight of stairs taking you to the majestic entrance of the building. This gesture has taken the building to a height and given it a setback to enjoy the view from it. What a view from the building to the city! I was awestruck!

Walking into the building, it is such a well-planned and ordered building spaces that take you through the history of Victoria and its development. The finesse of the every little thing in the building is so perfect, doors and windows framed by polished wood with impeccable design simplicity, sufficing its purpose.

The ground floor had the display of Victoria’s history, social and political development and the basement had a display of the Victorian gold rush. The white textured walls in the basement give a very different feeling compared to the upper levels of the building. All the hallways and corridors had a window opening at the end to make the whole space light and breathable. Old Treasury Building is indeed a treasure for Melbourne’s architecture.


Bio 21

Review by Amelia Cloney

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Bio 21 (by architects Design Inc) at the University of Melbourne was an amazing experience. Coming to Open House as an architecture student my mind was focused on design – design – design and while standing in the impressive atrium in Bio 21 my mind was still focused on the architecture. The large central lift core which forms a cell like shape, the external shading of the building, and the large “pods” that rise up the northern end of the atrium (which as it turns out was the bathrooms – rumour has it, the architects forgot to include them!) But it wasn’t until we started the tour of the level 4 laboratories that I remembered that I was visiting a building where perhaps the most impressive thing was the research that was being produced. One of the labs was researching Malaria, another Parkison’s disease, the next along was creating flexible plastic solar panels and this was all on one floor! Seriously impressive work! I also spent some time in the basement have a look at the NMR spectrometers. What really topped of the tour was our very impressive tour guide Frances Separovic, Head of Chemistry, who made sure he explained how the building functioned and the purpose of the high-tech machines.


Library at the Dock

Review by Farheen Dossa

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I now have a reason to visit the docklands. A refreshing departure from its surrounding built environment, the Library at the Dock, designed by Clare Design and Hayball is a three storey building constructed almost entirely of cross laminated timber (CLT). Its humane scale, clever connection with the waterfront’s boardwalk, earthy materials and colour palette make this recycled-timber box an elegant piece of architecture easy to be drawn towards. The interiors are brightly lit with the reading spaces having dramatic views of the harbour.  Adjustable wooden louvres lend the much needed shade as well as theatre of light and shadow to the space.

The library is packed with a variety of other surprising functions; a children’s indoor and outdoor play area, cafe, performance space, art gallery, maker’s space, music practice rooms, sound recording studio, multimedia hub and a green terrace complete with a table-tennis setup. All intelligently orchestrated and tied together by a central linear staircase.

Wait, there is more. It boasts of a passive natural ventilation system, central skylights-thermal chimneys and solar panels amidst other low energy features to have made it secure Australia’s first 6 Star Green Star Public Building Design rating.

A soulful building, this community library is exactly what the docklands needed.


About the Authors

Dena Barr

Dena is a a recent graduate architect from University of Melbourne and a NatHERs Thermal Performance Assessor. Her interests relate to sustainable design and building technologies.


Amelia Cloney

Amelia began her studies in  Interior Architecture before transferring to study Architecture at the Melbourne School of Design. Amelia’s projects have been exhibited at the Gallery of Australian Design and at the Dulux Gallery, Melbourne School of Design. Outside of architecture Amelia interest include art, furniture, fashion, travel, and exploring Melbourne.


Megha Joshi

Megha is a recent graduate architect from Deakin University. She is a keen observer, dreamer and very interested in architecture, arts and design.


Farheen Dossa

Farheen is a recent graduate architect from Melbourne School of Design. Her interests within architecture include material experimentation and digital fabrication. She is also an avid traveler who loves to explore new environments.




Beneath the tip of an Iceberg: Open House Melbourne 2015

This weekend is one of Melbourne’s biggest for all those fascinated by our built environment .  Guest writer Mariel Reyno  discusses the importance of Melbourne Open House.

Open House Melbourne creates a big window for design savvy people.  It is a yearly event that started in 2008 through a collaborative effort.

Have you ever  wanted to explore certain premises that are normally locked away? Thanks to the Open House Melbourne, the public are given a chance to experience a deeper side of architecture and have the opportunity to go through the skin of the structures.   Through this initiative, people are given an insight into how designers approach different concerns and considerations in order  to produce smart buildings.

Underneath the surface of it all, it showcases the transition of architecture in Melbourne by uplifting its past, present and future through its wide range of building typology- from restoration of old buildings to the advancements of technology in architecture visible in modern buildings. Having this kind of event,  stimulates and entices the mind to be creative and innovative. It also allows everyone to be critics, facilitating substantial discussion  and  different opinions on the world of architecture. Open House Melbourne also gives  architects and the building industry a chance to be in the limelight and helps encourage and inspire the next generation of designers to contribute in changing the world, making it a better place for everyone to live in.  Likewise, it gives inspiration to other art makers and agitates to create new art forms.

Open House Melbourne also gives blooming architecture students the opportunity to experience architecture first hand.  They are leaning to think critically and evaluate design from the small details through to  the totality of the building as a whole and within the context it resides.

The experience of Melbourne Open House also gives you  the chance to see how each designer is able to convey their design and how the design enables the building to function.  Each and every building has its own uniqueness to offer, exhibiting parts of the designer, the occupants and the use of the building.

This annual program  is engaging  people bounded by curiosity and a common interest  in innovative design that would builds upon our city’s reputation  of creativity.

Architecture greatly affects our way of living and the way we interact with one another.  Undertakings like these are  opportunities for people to appreciate and witness art together, and let everyone get a glimpse of how art (in this case, Architecture) plays a big role in shaping a better community.


Melbourne Open House is on this weekend, July 25 – 26

For more information and to plan your weekend go to : www.openhousemelbourne.org


About the Author:

Mariel Reyno

Mariel is an Architecture Student at the University of Melbourne. She has a vision of creating a better society through design and arts.