Baber Studio is a recently established Brisbane architecture and design practice founded by Monique Baber and Kim Baber, who recently won the Australian Institute of Architects’ Queensland Emerging Architect Prize for 2014.
The award recognises Baber’s contribution to the architecture profession through his experience in, and collaboration with, other architectural firms and within his own practice; and ongoing research and teaching at the University of Queensland.
Architecture and Design spoke to him about leaders in the industry, computer aided fabrication and the pros and cons of running a studio with a spouse.
You've been described as a true leader of the architecture industry. Who do you consider as a leader?
There are many architects whose work we respect and admire for different reasons. For the architecture profession however, perhaps those who bring about the most significant change are not exclusively an architect, but those who can genuinely influence city making policy, such as Oriol Bohigas or Jaime Lerner (for how they transformed the cities of Barcelona and Curitiba).
On the scale of individual buildings, similarly, those who are able to both imagine as well as procure, such as Frank Gehry or Eladio Dieste, could be considered leaders.
What is your approach to your work? How does it differ from other architects in the industry?
Different projects require different approaches, and at this early stage in our practice we are definitely still testing them. We do have some key things that we value in projects, such as experimenting with the behaviour of light upon surfaces and within volumes, and developing a materially informed tectonic language for each project. These qualities are valued because they cannot be wholly appreciated through an image.
^Charming Squire by Baber Studio in collaboration with Collins and Turner and Andrew D'Occhio. Photography by Toby Scott
Baber has plans to invest in computer aided fabrication. How will this influence your approach?
We are interested in how this format of fabrication might enable alternative procurement methods. It’s already happening out there on large scale projects with tech savvy contractors. The trick is introducing the technologies to smaller scale builders and how we can manage the contractual implications. We find it feasible to fabricate discreet elements such as bespoke joinery ourselves, but we are looking to integrate this more comprehensively.
You established Baber in 2012 with your wife. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with someone you have such a close relationship with?
The advantages are that you both have a vested interest in the practice. You also benefit in being able to converse and share the experience of designing and seeing projects come to fruition, which is genuinely rewarding. The disadvantages are that work and home life can become blurred, which requires lines to be drawn clearly. We treasure our little studio in West End which we share, and the line is drawn at the front door.
^Kurilpa Childcare Centre by Baber Studio. Photography by David Sandison
You've said the Shutter House is about valuing the backyard. Is it possible for this once important aspect of homes to still be relevant in today's world?
Many Australians are fortunate enough to enjoy a private backyard, which is a model that cannot be afforded worldwide. Whilst it may not be viable for each allotment to have a backyard, the same principal for ensuring a shared enjoyment of ‘green spaces’ can be applied to an urban planning scale. The approach to ‘Shutter House’ was to minimise the overall footprint and preserve the existing ‘green space,’ which is relevant to both residential properties and for urban planning.
^Shutter House by Baber Studio. Photography by Christopher Fredrick Jones
Baber would like to open up opportunities to architecture students and graduates. Are there enough opportunities for students and graduates in architecture these days?
Baber Studio is wholly committed to imparting knowledge to the next generation of architects. Our commitment to students is evident through both our research and teaching at universities. Students and graduates have enthusiasm for design exploration, which is a great generator in our studio. There are many opportunities for students and graduates out there if you are not looking to limit yourself to a traditional office experience.
What is one project you wish you had designed?
It would be great to be given the chance to build an entire building from say a single material. We’re yet to convince a client to do it, but we’d definitely value the learning curve it would impose.