Interview with Adelaide-based Architectural Workshop Studio Gram | Yellowtrace

 

I must admit that, up until just a few weeks ago I wasn’t even aware of studio -gram’s existence. I genuinely have no idea how it took me so long to clock onto these boys, since I make it my business to know everything – as Husband will attest to. Regardless of this, we are here today to correct that wrong.

Founded by Graham Charbonneau and Dave Bickmore, Adelaide-based architectural workshop studio -gram focuses on creating experiences as familiar as they are surprising. “Our projects are collaboratively crafted and artfully considered. Inspired by faces and places, we endeavour to take the users on journeys outside their imagination”, explains the talented duo.

For those of you who have travelled to Bali (and most likely stayed somewhere in – or within close proximity to Seminyak) would probably be highly familiar with the famous Motel Mexicola. Well, these boys are the designers behind the joint. It’s interior, I mean. Although I am yet to meet the pair in real life, their energy, cheekiness and larger-than-life spirit comes across in all of their work and that killer portrait. In other words, I find it impossible to look at their projects and not smile, making me feel extra excited about shining a little spotlight on this clever Australian design practice.

Ok, that should do it from me. Let’s hear it from the boys!

 

Related Post: Osteria Oggi Adelaide by studio -gram.

 

Interview Studio Gram Abbots & Kinney | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Abbots & Kinney | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Abbots & Kinney | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Abbots & Kinney | Yellowtrace
Abbots & Kinney in Adelaide, South Australia (2015). Photography by David Sievers.

 

+ Hello Graham & Dave, welcome to Yellowtrace and thank you for taking the time to e-chat. Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourselves? When did you first decide you wanted to become designers? And how did you two meet?

Dave Bickmore. 28 years of age. I grew up in regional South Australia in a town called Renmark. My dad was a panel-beater turned winemaker, and at the age of 10 he taught me to weld. I think that is why I love making things.

Graham Charbonneau – 33 – originally from a small town in Ontario, Canada – Lancaster, it is called with a booming population of 700, just outside of Montreal. I was born and raised on hockey rinks throughout Canada. I moved to Australia to study Architecture at 23. I differed uni for about 4 years after I quit playing ice hockey. During this time, I snowboarded, travelled and work behind bars and for various construction companies, working on different scales and types of construction as a chippy. I had always planned on being involved in Sports Medicine. I applied to study Medicine at the University of South Australia, then, after submitting my application, I called and asked if I could change my first preference to architecture. I guess I was influenced by the work I had been doing, and I had always had an obsession with Lego as a kid.

We met whilst studying at the University of South Australia. We completed every group project at Uni as a team, we formed a strong bond, an appreciation for our respective strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly a relationship where constructive criticism was welcomed. From there we honed our skills at different commercial practices, whilst moonlighting on private projects.

 

OGGI by Studio Gram | Yellowtrace

OGGI by Studio Gram | Yellowtrace
Osteria Oggi in Adelaide, South Australia (2015). Photography by David Sievers.

 

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

We don’t aspire to a style that defines us. Each project is highly personalised and responds to an exacting brief. We are known for our inventive use of space, material and colour but the thing that probably defines us the most is narrative, every project has a story that relates to the client and the people that will use the space. We see the story telling aspect of design as the driving influence to my process. It grounds the project, and gives decision making a purpose. It is also apparent (I hope) it the finished project, as it underpins the experience of the space.

Our individual processes are different, but the studio’s process is a combined one. We pride ourselves on the ‘smallness of our studio. We don’t have ‘Dave’ projects or ‘Graham’ projects, we only have studio –gram projects. We then like to design something small for the project, a detail, a joinery handle, a coat hook or something that captures the overall mood of the project.

 

Interview Studio Gram Civilian Bar & Kitchen | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Civilian Bar & Kitchen | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Civilian Bar & Kitchen | Yellowtrace
Civilian Bar & Kitchen in Adelaide, South Australia (2014). Photography by Ben Mcgee.

 

+ How important is the ability to balance the design and business in today’s market? How much time do you spend on each side of your practice?

We would love to spend all of our time designing. But the realities of that aren’t so. We tend to spend about 80% of our time on the tools. The other 20% I guess is business management/development, we really don’t like that side of business. We try to create projects that speak for themselves, projects that become our business development. It is strange to think that as a design practice you need to be out there selling yourself. We are firm believers that if we create compelling design work, then future work will find us.

 

Interview Studio Gram Motel Mexicola | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Motel Mexicola | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Motel Mexicola | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Motel Mexicola | Yellowtrace
Motel Mexicola in Seminyak, Bali (2013).

 

+ How do you go about promoting your work and initiating projects?

Like many design practices we don’t invest in PR or business development. We have our projects photographed, and we load those photographs onto our website. I guess that is where it stops. As above, we like to spend our time creating, and we feel that if what we create is as good as it should be, then that in itself will promote us, and initiate new projects.

+ What are some of your methods to staying motivated, focused and expressive?

Winning new work and travel. We aren’t blind to the fact that we work in an industry surrounded by a lot of extremely talented people. The only way we can continue to win new work is if we push ourselves on every project. We are also both frequent travellers. Travel inspires us and recharges us. Some of our best narratives are off the back of travel, the unexpected encounters and beautiful people we have met all over the world. It also keeps us in touch with what is happening around the world, not just in the most recent design mag, but also in the backstreets of the most unexpected places. That is where our ‘real’ ideas are born.

 

Interview Studio Gram Hotel Harry | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Hotel Harry | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Hotel Harry | Yellowtrace
Hotel Harry in Adelaide, South Australia (2014). Photography by Ben Mcgee.

 

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other photographers, architects and creatives in general do you admire?

Our influences are everywhere. I think they are constantly changing from one project to the next.

We like:

Books with pictures and pop up books – we really like pop up books
Developing Countries
Developed Cities
Wes Anderson Films

 

Interview Studio Gram Gallery | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Gallery | Yellowtrace
Gallery in Adelaide, South Australia (2013). Photography by David Sievers.

 

+ What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to follow your path?

Break all the rules. We once read an article entitled ’20 things not to do when starting your own architecture practice’. We did all 20 of them.

+ What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practices?

Maybe we shouldn’t have done all 20 of those things that you aren’t supposed to do.

+ And what do you feel is the most challenging part of being a designer today?

Staying on top of your game. There is a lot of amazing competition, so trying to get ahead of the curve is a constant battle, but it is also what keeps us happy and motivated.

 

Interview Studio Gram Parwana | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Parwana | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Parwana | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Parwana | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Parwana | Yellowtrace
Kutchi Deli Parwana in Adelaide, South Australia (2014). Photography by David Sievers.

 

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

Our goal is to build a studio with a view, on the beach, in the hills, in Canada, anywhere but the city really. Our vision is simple in theory, we just want to create compelling experiences for the end users of the buildings we are privileged enough to work on.

Our current projects include:

A secret new venue in one of Adelaide’s Lane-ways
Paradise Prawn – Manly
The Oxford – North Adelaide
The Bath Hotel – Norwood
Level One – Adelaide
Lucky Duck – Adelaide
Ozone Wine Bar – Renmark
Deus Café – Camperdown
A couple of wineries in the Barossa Valley
Millswood House
Glenelg East House
Glenelg South House
Black Forest House
Ponyfish Island – Melbourne
Unley Apartments
The Beakless Mallard – Tennyson (in my shed)

 

Interview Studio Gram Africolo | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Africolo | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram Africolo | Yellowtrace
Africolo in Adelaide, Australia (2014). Photography by Ben Mcgee.

 

LET’S GET REAL!

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

Starting a design practice.

+ Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Graham: Figure out where you want to be in life, not what you want to be, the rest will work itself out.

Dave: My grandpa was typical of a man from the land, full of Australian colloquiums and always willing to give advice like: “Measure twice, cut once”, and “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”

+ What is your most treasured belonging?

Our Passports.

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

Graham: I play hockey in the AIHL (Australian Ice Hockey League).

Dave: When I was a kid my mum, dad, sister and the family dog ‘Ned’, drove over 2,500kms from the mouth of the Murray River up the Darling River in a 13 foot Dinghy.

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

Sausage Rolls.

 

Interview Studio Gram | Yellowtrace

Interview Studio Gram | Yellowtrace
studio -gram in Adelaide, South Australia (2015). Photography by Ben Mcgee.

Interview Studio Gram Portrait | Yellowtrace
The Dudes. Photography by Ben Mcgee.


[Images courtesy of Studio Gram.]

 

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.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Sarah-Jane

    Great round up. I have to admit that I’m a big fan of lots of these projects but hadn’t put it all together either! And now I really want to visit Adelaide… Love it!

    Reply

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