New Architects Melbourne (NA M) is a volunteer group helping to develop and support the Melbourne architectural community. Founded in 2011, NA M hosts informal gatherings for young architects to share stories, knowledge and valuable lessons as well as to engage with the broader architectural community, including designers, publishers and journalists. NA M’s latest venture is the New Architects Podcast. The eight-episode season builds on the format of NA M events with in-depth conversations with young and established architects and editors that reveal the strong collegiality of the Melbourne community, architects’ exploratory approach to materials and techniques, and the challenges of running a practice.
New Architects Melbourne began as a platform for new and emerging architects to meet and share information about their practices and work. Six studios presented at the first Friday-night event, and six years down the track, NA M has organised 21 events. Each event is hosted by a different studio, with approximately 70 to 150 attendees per event. “It’s a space for people to share their ethos, vision and important life lessons, and for architecture students and practitioners to get a taste of what it’s like to start their own practice,” says NA M co-founder Eugenia Tan.
Each event features a selection of architecture practices and related disciplines giving brief presentations followed by a panel discussion that covers diverse topics including the challenges of the architecture practice and operating a business. “We want people who own or want to own a studio to know that’s it not bells and whistles all the time,” Eugenia says. “There are definitely challenges, but by talking about the challenges people understand there’s a whole community out there that will back them up.”
In May 2017, NA M embarked on a series of podcasts with 45-minute conversations based on the topics raised in the presentations and discussions. Daniel Moore from Open Creative Studio, and a core member of NA M, hosted season one of the New Architects Podcast, which features interviews with WOWOWA, Architecture Architecture, Architecture Media, Archier, BLOXAS, Edition Office, Claire Scorpo Architects and Harrison and White. The series provides listeners with deeper insight into the way architecture is practised in Melbourne today, while also reaching a broader audience in terms of location and industry. “New Architects Melbourne has a history of encouraging related and supporting disciplines, such as graphic, 3D, industrial and interior design, photography and publishing. The podcast takes that collaboration to another level and brings the discussions to the general public,” Eugenia explains.
There are some common themes that run across the conversations and thus the emerging architectural community. Certainly young architects are embracing change by exploring materials, techniques, related disciplines and new ways to do things in both architecture and business. In the podcast with Archier, directors Chris Haddad, Josh Fitzgerald and Jon Kaitler who have backgrounds in architecture and industrial design, discuss learning by making and engaging with industrial production processes; producing furniture, lighting and kitchen joinery to sustain the business while building up their architectural portfolio; and their use of different and new building materials, such as one-tonne leftover concrete blocks and SIPs for mass production. WOWOWA’s Monique and Scott Woodward chat about their YouTube seires “If You Were Mine” as a playful and innovative way to promote their studio and brand, and Claire Scorpo talks about her collaboration on an artistic project with designer Elliat Rich from the Northern Territory, exploring ideas outside the traditional field of architecture.
The podcasts also draw attention to the profession’s relationship to the broader network of architecture, including Michael Roper and Nick James of Architecture Architecture who are partnering with Breathe Architecture on a joint venture to create a cohousing building for the not-for-profit social enterprise Nightingale Housing.
While there are common threads across the podcasts, each reflects the distinct personality and approach of the speakers. Anthony Clarke of BLOXAS describes his interest in the early stage of concept design, and Kim Bridgland and Aaron Roberts of Edition Office speak about the need for cultural and historical understanding of place. Stuart Harrison of Harrison and White brings his seasoned perspective to the series, and Katelin Butler and Cassie Hanson of Architecture Media elucidate on architectural publishing.
Across all the podcasts, the collegiality of the Melbourne architectural industry, in part fostered by NA M, comes through loud and clear. “We’re tapping into and bringing forward something that’s already there,” Eugenia explains. NA M is focused on continuing to instigate initiatives for collaborating with and championing young practices, and with an eye to the future hopes to become national with volunteers hosting local events in other cities around Australia. “Our mantra is to create engagement between people in our industry for the benefit of architectural practice,” Eugenia says. “We’re excited to be part of raising the confidence, competence, skill and profile of architects that all have talent and heart to make valuable contributions to our built environment and therefore our community.”
The New Architects Podcast has already exceeded the downloads than NA M expected, with most listeners hailing from Victoria and other parts of Australia, but also reaching America, the UK, France, Japan and China. As the discussions and popularity of the podcast demonstrates, architecture and its challenges for emerging practitioners are universal.
You can listen to the New Architects Podcast at www.newarchitects.com.au/Podcast or download the series from iTunes, Stitcher and Overcast.