Interview with Sibling Architecture, Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 

They say that two heads are better than one. Then five heads together must be bloody amazing. And if Amelia Borg, Nicholas Braun, Jane Caught, Qianyi Lim & Timothy Moore from Sibling are anything to go by, you too will want to rush out and get yourself four other business partners. But they are going to have to be bloody amazing. Plus you’re going to want to have known them for a very long time, and really enjoy their company – like proper great mates.

I’ve long admired the work of Sibling Architecture and their unique, truly multidisciplinary approach. And not just because of their utopian practice model, or the fact they combine architecture, urbanism, cultural analysis and graphic communication to produce inspiring projects. I’ve been drawn to their lateral thinking and their ability to design from a place that exists outside of ‘design trends’ (yuck, I can’t believe I just said the T-word – sorry guys, I can be absolutely fucking atrocious with my language at times!), and their courage to explore radical ideas, stick to their guns, carve out a niche, build a community around their practice and so much more.

With offices in both Melbourne and Sydney, Sibling star is definitely on the rise and their projects are becoming more diverse in nature and scale – from residential, workplace, retail, experiential, education, hospitality, temporary, public realm – you name it, these guys are doing it, but in their own unique way.

I’m so bloody excited to share this interview with you today, because it’s jam-packed, and I mean JAM PACKED with so much good stuff, you’re going to want to take your phone off the hook (or put it on silent or something), shut down your email, cancel work and call in sick. Cause this is the shit right here.

Enjoy!

 

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
The Frenches Home & Workplace in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ Hello team Sibling, welcome to Yellowtrace!. Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourselves? When did you first decide you wanted to become architects? And what path lead you to start your join practice?

We all met at university…. and we all know how life encompassing studying architecture is. We were spending all our time together working on our uni projects that we decided to rent our own studio space in Mitchell House in Melbourne’s CBD together. This is an old art deco corner building, with views down Elizabeth Street to Flinders St station. We had artist friends who had the space below us, and other architects next door. The studio became our second home, and this really was the beginning of Sibling. Having our own space meant that we started collaborating on things outside of uni and work – we’d create installations for friends’ galleries or do decorations for club nights. There was a real community of creatives and artists around us just doing their own thing on their own terms, this in a way was an influence on us.

After we finished our studies we all went off in different directions to work for other practices in Melbourne, Sydney, across Europe and in China. A couple of us worked in architectural research and publication, one of us also studied landscape architecture and worked in that for a while. We stayed in touch over this time, coming and going from Melbourne, with a couple of us here working on a side project.

At some point the side projects became commissions. By this time, we also gained the experience necessary to register as architects. As soon as we could – we formally registered Sibling as an architectural practice and one by one we committed to it as our full-time practice. I don’t think any of us had doubts about what we were doing, we jumped in head first. People around us questioned the viability of working with so many close friends, maybe they thought we were idealistic – and we certainly are – but that, if anything, is an asset then a hindrance when considering where you want your life to take you.

 

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
The Frenches Home & Workplace Design in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ What is your main priority when starting projects? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

Nicholas Braun (NB): We have a core interest in people and placing them at the centre of our designs. So any project that allows us to explore the social interaction between people we are naturally drawn to. This can range from small family homes right through to larger public realm projects.

Amelia Borg (AB): Our starting point is always with the social – how can a project allow people to come together (or be alone) to generate positive social interactions and exchange? It is important for us that the built outcomes of our projects socially enhance the communities that people live, work and play in.

Qianyi Lim (QL): This agenda also extends beyond built outcomes and into the temporary. We often initiate temporary event based projects with the aim to engage a wider audience beyond our clients, on issues critical to our practice. We currently have a show on at the RMIT Designhub, New Agency: Owning Your Future. This exhibition actually takes shape as a live research platform where we ask visitors to engage in a series of activities that prompt them to consider how they want to live in their future age. We have also programmed a series of workshops, events and talks alongside the exhibition, we hope to generate discussion around our ageing population, and also hope to learn from these discussions.

 

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

The Frenches Home & Workplace Design by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
The Frenches Home & Workplace Design in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ How do you go about initiating projects – do you do this together or separately? You must find that your amazing partnership enriches your output, but is there ever a time when you all drive each other crazy, or when designing or working together can be challenging?

NB: We definitely drive each other crazy, but this, as you mentioned, helps us to enrich our projects, having such varied opinions and voices on projects allows us all to take on and implement ideas which we may not have come up with alone. We are constantly surprising and challenging each other, and this helps keep things fluid and dynamic within the studio.

AB: At the beginning of a project we work in a very collaborative way; we will sit down together and discuss the design as a group- which we think ultimately results in a much better outcome as you have lots of diverse opinions and perspectives. From that point on, one person leads and manages the project through to delivery, we have weekly design reviews to discuss projects along the way.

QL: People think we are crazy for how much time we spend with each other, we work but we also socialize, and every year go away on summer holidays together too. There are challenges in working with your best mates that we have learned to navigate, but I think it is much more challenging to lead a practice on your own, with nobody to talk things through with, or celebrate the joys with.

 

dot COMME Collection Store in Melbourne by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

dot COMME Collection Store in Melbourne by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

dot COMME Collection Store in Melbourne by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

dot COMME Collection Store in Melbourne by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

dot COMME Collection Store in Melbourne by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
dot COMME Collection Store in Melbourne. Photography by Sean Fennessy.

 

+ How is your studio structured? i.e. How many of you work in the studio, what types of skills do you have in-house, is there anything you are outsourcing, and how many projects do you handle at any one time?

We have a wonderful family of architects, grads and students across the two studios in Melbourne and Sydney. At the moment we have about 15 live projects, with others brewing in the background.

In terms of our skillset, it is pretty diverse: Nick is a landscape architect as well as an architect, so that has really driven the landscape/public realm side of the practice. Amelia is currently undertaking a diploma in business, which has been super interesting in feeding into our business. Jane and Qianyi have been occupied with the research for our exhibition New Agency, and Timothy wears a few hats as senior lecturer at Monash University, curator for Melbourne Design Week – he’s also doing his PhD at Melbourne Uni too!

We don’t outsource much, only our accounting and IT systems. Otherwise, we manage everything in house, we all take on different admin/biz roles, which has been important for us to all be engaged with and understand how the business side of things operate.

 

Veil House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Veil House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Veil House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Veil House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Veil House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
Veil House in Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ How do you organise and manage the competing demands of modern business and life? Do you have any tip or tricks you could share with us that help you in your day to day (i.e. software, online tools, shortcuts, task management, cheat sheets, advisors, anything!)

Timothy Moore (TM): It is always important to remind yourself where you want to be in one, two or five years time. Work on tasks that will get you there rather than getting caught up in the everyday actions that make the business run. Spend the first two hours of the day working on these tasks before getting onto emails. They can wait.

AB: After setting up the Sydney office this year we have also learned how to be efficient at digital design collaboration too, and we are using a bunch of different tools to share and design across distance!

QL: We have been using Slack for a while now, at first it was really to connect the Sydney and Melbourne studios – but it has been really efficient to streamline and keep track of all communications on different projects, as well as share ideas and thoughts in an informal manner. We also utilize Xero for our daily book keeping, and Coincraft to keep track of our time and project management.

 

Squint/Opera Melbourne HQ by Sibling | Yellowtrace

Squint/Opera Melbourne HQ by Sibling | Yellowtrace

Squint/Opera Melbourne HQ by Sibling | Yellowtrace

Squint/Opera Melbourne HQ by Sibling | Yellowtrace
Squint/Opera Melbourne Head Quarters. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ What do you feel is the most challenging part of being a designer/ architect today? And if you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

NB: Australia is a very risk averse society which can be good for some things but can also mean that certain things are ignored which might help to enact positive change. Younger practices are sometimes overlooked for projects well within their capability, in favour of a more experienced practice, which is really tough in this competitive industry.

AB: Architecture is definitely an industry where you have to prove your stripes, it often feels like a catch 22 for young emerging practices as you are rarely given a project until you have done one before, so its hard to build up in scale. However, there are lots of great initiatives happening in Melbourne at the moment which encourage design diversity, and for there to be a range of experience on teams for large projects which is really great.

Jane Caught (JC): Architecture has always been a labour of love. The exploitation of people within this system has been institutionalized, and it can be difficult to navigate within an increasingly globalized and automated world.

 

Family House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Family House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Family House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
Family House in Melbourne. Persimmon colour finishes by Laminex were used in this project.

Family House, Single Dwelling by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
Family House in Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ What are some of your methods to stay motivated, focused and expressive? And your top 3 main sources of inspiration and references you are drawn to regularly?

AB: We have the DOMUS Anthology in the studio, which has a lot of eye candy and is a fun reference that we sometimes look to, but in general we don’t really follow any design blogs or websites.

TM: Keeping in touch with colleagues and peers through traveling abroad keeps one focused forward rather than caught up in the Australian East Coast design scene. Keeping track of new events, buildings, thoughts and materials happens through the socials.

QL: We also take a trip away together somewhere along the east coast right after the new year (this year we went to the Sunshine Coast, next year we are heading to Wilson’s Prom) – this is pretty special – to make the time to spend with each other as friends. It’s a really good refresher before we get back into work. We don’t talk about work – we save that for another long weekend away during the year, our AGM. This is when we reflect on the past year’s work, set goals for the coming year, and make sure we are all on the same trajectory.

 

New Agency Research Project by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

New Agency Research Project by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

New Agency Research Project by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
New Agency: Owning Your Future; live research project & exhibition in collaboration with RMIT Design Hub (29th August – 22 September 2018). Photography by James Whiting.

 

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other designers, peers and creativesdo you admire?

JC: At the inception of the practice we were heavily influenced by other collective studios that were initiating their own projects and practicing on their own terms – studios like DUS, N55, Superstudio, Memphis, Bernadette Corporation.

QL: We also admire our peers who are pushing boundaries in their respective fields – fashion/art label Ffixxed. Tin and Ed who we used to share our studio with – they are now based in NYC doing amazing things in art direction and graphic design. Our friend Jiajia Chen never ceases to amaze us with her fabulous cooking and clever ceramics; and artist Eugenia Lim, she just made this really great video work The Australian Ugliness! We are also really inspired by other local architects who started practicing around the same time as us and are driving the profession in their own unique way; WOWOWA, Other Architects, TRIAS, Future Method, Studiobird.

 

New Agency Research Project by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

New Agency Research Project by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

New Agency Research Project by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
New Agency: Owning Your Future; live research project & exhibition in collaboration with RMIT Design Hub (29th August – 22 September 2018). Photography by James Whiting.

Vice Australia Office in Melbourne by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
Vice Australia Office in Collingwood, Melbourne. Photo by DLA-ALM.

 

+ What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?

JC: Make your own work. Find other ways to practice. Start conversations. Talk to all people about their experiences of the built environments they inhabit.

AB: Be patient, architecture is a long and slow process. It’s also important to take the time to celebrate your victories, we have a policy of pizza and prosecco when we get good news.

QL: Work with people you respect and admire – this goes for clients, colleagues, consultants and collaborators.

 

Monash University, Eastwing Campus by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Monash University, Eastwing Campus by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
Monash University, Eastwing Campus, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ What would be your dream creative project or a collaboration?

A nightclub for elders could be cool….we’d like to imagine these spaces exist for us too when we get to our third age! Also, whilst it was a small project, it was pretty dreamy designing the dotcomme store to house Octavius La Rosa’s priceless couture collection!

 

Monash University, Student Lounge by Sibling Architecture | YellowtraceMonash University, Student Lounge, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

Monash University, School of Nursing & Midwifery by Sibling Architecture | YellowtraceMonash University, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis. Olympia Orange colour finishes by Laminex were used in this project.

OnOff Exhibition at University of Melbourne by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
OnOff Exhibition at University, Melbourne. Photo by Tobias Titz.

 

+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision, some of your goals (and some of your current projects)?

TM: We are working towards larger-scale civic projects – buildings that help form a town or community – we are currently working on a regional art gallery, a local swimming pool, two schools along with some interesting residential projects. We relish the opportunity to give form to communities through architecture.

JC: We are looking forward to integrating all the learnings from our recent New Agency – Owning Your Future research project into the design of the public spaces, to allow for inclusiveness of all bodies in shared space; as well as our housing projects. It is vital that housing stock accommodates the fact that we will live a lot longer, and possibly through a range of different living arrangements.

 

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

Neon Tiger Cafe by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace
Neon Tiger Cafe in Malvern, Melbourne. Photo by Tobias Titz.

 

Let’s Get Real:

+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

Starting a business with friends. Everyone told us it would never work, but it’s the best thing we ever did.

+ Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

NB: Things will never be as perfect as you imagine so learn to love the imperfection also.

QL: Run on your own and you will fun fast, run together and you will run far.

TM: I’d hesitate to be superlative as we get pretty great advice all the time from our collaborators from builders to clients to peers and staff. One thing we remind ourselves of is that oneself is one’s hardest critic. So when we are not successful in a particular tender or competition, we remind ourselves of what we achieved so far and focus on the positive. (Ok, well we do analyse why we weren’t successful, too.) It’s good advice to ourselves.

 

Ricky & Pinky Restaurant by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Ricky & Pinky Restaurant by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Ricky & Pinky Restaurant by Sibling Architecture | Yellowtrace

Ricky & Pinky Restaurant in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Photography by Christine Francis.

 

+ Your most treasured belonging?

Our most treasured belonging is our indoor plant collection in the studio.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

We are not actually related!

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Survivor, 90s design and architecture, cheesy lasers.

 

Victorian Pride Centre by Sibling Architecture, Shortlisted entry in collaboration with BKK Architects | Yellowtrace
Victorian Pride Centre, shortlisted competition entry in collaboration with BKK Architects.

Interview with Sibling Architecture, Melbourne | Yellowtrace
The ledends from Sibling (from left to right) – Back: Amelia Borg, Timothy Moore & Nicholas Braun. Front: Qianyi Lim & Jane Caught.

 

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 


[Images courtesy of Sibling Architecture. Photography credits as noted.]

 

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor
Google+

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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