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    Women architects leading the way in city redesign

    Branko Miletic

    Architects Ariana Rodriguez and Maria Guardala at Crone Architects spoke to Architecture & Design and explained how the key to the success of the partnership was the complementary skillset of the two associates.

    In 2016, Crone Architects won a design excellence competition for 230 Sussex Street with associate, Ariana Rodriguez leading the design. The vision for the landmark site integrated the existing heritage-listed Foley Brothers Warehouse with a new tower and incorporated serviced apartments and residential.

    The adjacent heritage warehouse will be adapted to host a striking courtyard and lobby for the building, creating a focal point while activating the heart of the Meriton development. Ariana’s fellow associate, Maria Guardala is the project architect and together with Rodriguez, led the team throughout the detailed design and construction stages.

    When responding to the design competition, a key challenge for the team was also to respond to the local context and ensure their concept design enhanced the value of the existing heritage building. This was done through seamlessly blending past and present, ensuring a strong connection between the heritage warehouse and the new tower together with references to the streetscape.

    “230 Sussex Street is a once-in-a-career type opportunity to work on a building that connects the past with the present and delivers truly exceptional design. The tower also responds to its context and program by presenting from both a heritage historical context from the city side, and a commercial current context from the Harbour side of the tower,” says Rodriguez.

    “From the outset, my focus was the creation of the concept design and the incorporation of strong design principles. On the other hand, Maria’s expertise lies in the delivery and ensuring the design principles are accurately referenced through the construction process – as a result we’ve been able to work efficiently to bring the project towards fruition,” she says.

    According to Maria Guardala, “The site presented an exciting opportunity to create a truly distinctive building, celebrating the site’s rich heritage while seamlessly blending timeless modern elements. Meriton’s desire to create a building that achieves the height of luxury and their commitment to high quality design enabled the Crone team to first imagine and then deliver a truly exceptional new destination for Sydney.”

    “Since I was a child,” says Ariana Rodriguez, “I dreamed about places like New York, Egypt, or Rome, where the built environment created a place that was distinct, with character and told the story of the place.”

    “I wanted to be a part of that, so I decided to become an architect at a very young age, and at 18 I moved to Barcelona, where I studied architecture and urban design within a city that breathes good design on every corner,” she says.

    “This gave me a new appreciation of space and place: now I have an ability to read and understand different cities at a whole different level, paying attention to details from the scale of the urban strategy to the materials and textures that people touch and feel on their everyday life, and learning new things on a daily basis.”

    “For me, being able to make a positive impact on the quality of life of people by making the right design decisions at this scale is priceless, and I hope I can make meaningful contributions to our society through my work.”

    “I fell into architecture somewhat by accident,” says Guardala.

    “As a naive 17-year-old I didn't really understand what an architect did. I tossed between various design fields and finally took a punt and settled for studying architecture. I fell in love with it – the ability to turn an idea on paper into an environment that is experienced in many dimensions is thrilling.”

    “I wake up every day loving every aspect of my job; the formation of a vision, the spatial planning, "crafting" of the building, and thinking about how edges, junctions come together, the production of drawings and the management of people and relationships: We balance many skills and the challenges are immensely rewarding. For me, I truly enjoy running projects and want to continue doing that in the future,” she says.

    Rodriguez says that, “Architects have a bigger task than what many people are aware of, balancing the priorities of the many different parties involved in a project – sometimes what the city wants doesn’t necessarily align with the client’s vision or financial capacity, or even the requirements of engineers, authorities, etc.”

    “Our role is to understand and consider all those different forces that shape a project, and to transform them into a meaningful contribution to our built environment and society. One of these constraints is obviously related to the sustainability, and we need to consider it from the urban design scale, to the level of the passive design of a building, material selection, etc.,” she says.

    Guardala notes that, “I think at times we operate in a fast-paced environment and as such our clients can sometimes forget to think that the building should be designed to last and not be considered disposable within 20 years.”

    “I feel that architects should always be educating their clients on how to design for longevity which involves getting the fundamentals right (orientation, ventilation etc.), choosing good quality and honest materials and allowing the planning to be flexible.”

    “Men and women bring different values and perspectives to a project and the more diversity we have, the better outcomes we get.”

    “Diversity in our future designers means that assumptions and pre-conceived ideas can be challenged, and that design can be more inclusive, open-minded and accurately reflect relevant issues in society,” she says.

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