Emma Eady, architect at Jacobs, recently won the CSR Cemintel™ 9 Dots Award in the Professional Winner category.

Eady has worked across multiple sectors including retail, defence and research and laboratory and also won the Norman Foster Excellence in design award in 2013.

Architecture and Design spoke to her about how her approach to the award differed from a client brief, her relocation to Australia and why she wants to meet well-known Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

You recently won the Cemintel 9 Dots. How was your approach to the award's design different to how you would have approached a client's project?

The Cemintel 9 dots competition provided us with the opportunity to look more closely at the social component of the brief in relation to inner urban living than in other housing projects where the brief is fixed. We were given a very loose brief with no budget, which was perfect for our group training exercise. 

Our initial meetings were brainstorming workshops to identify a new creative and sustainable direction for multi-residential developments. We were able to incorporate a live/work mix into the housing brief and have fun with massing concepts that would enhance social interaction between the entrepreneurial residents and its local community. 

With a small list of design requirements, we took advantage of not having any concept restrictions allowing ourselves to be inventive and push our design boundaries as a group.

Products and materials can have an impact on designers' choices. What is one material that you've used that has had a significant impact on your design?

The ‘Urbanest’ design concept was based around interaction and flexibility, both in a social and physical context. This ethos was at the forefront of our design when applying the Cemintel Designer Series to our proposal. We were interested in using the material in a creative way that could enhance the users’ interaction with the product. 

The inventive use of fibre cement sheet product as a sliding screen material provided Jacobs’ scheme with the design opportunity to create an ever-changing building skin that responded to changes of climate and user conditions. We also looked at how we could puncture dots into the fibre cement screens to create interesting light penetrations into the rooms.  

You've been involved with projects across multiple sectors. Do you enjoy the variety of this work, or do you plan to focus on one specific sector?

During my time at Jacobs I have worked with many professionals across different disciplines. For me at this early stage of my career it has been important to be exposed to such a variety of work to improve my knowledge and advance my skills.

I have a strong interest in urban development and social interaction. These are subjects I have focused on previously at university, so my passion lies in furthering my knowledge of urban design. 

You relocated to Australia following your graduation from the University of Nottingham, UK in 2014. What prompted the move to Australia?

In between studying I worked at smaller practises in London and also travelled to different parts of the world. I visited Australia in the summer of 2012 and since my trip I have always planned to come back to live. I was keen to take myself out of my comfort zone and try a new challenge. By relocating, I opened many doors in terms of life experience, work experience and further travel experience.

Are there any significant differences you've noticed in how Australians approach architecture compared to those in the UK?

Whilst living in Australia over the past year I have tried to visit many parts of the country. I’ve noticed each city has a different approach to architecture. Therefore there is a great regional variety; this may be due to the large climate variation. 

Due to the age of the country and the great amount of space available, urban development is often very playful and experimental in concept, appearance and scale. I have found environmental design is central in all design approaches.

If you could spend the day with any architect, who would it be?

I recently visited Japan and spent a few days on the island of Naioshima. The island is known for its modern art museums, architecture and sculptures. Much of Naioshima’s art was installed by the Benesse Corporation. Benesse’s museums were designed by the well-known Japanese architect Tadao Ando. I was amazed by the spectacular architecture that Ando had designed for this mystical island.

So if I could spend a day with any architect it would have to be Ando and his design team whilst designing the ChiChu Art Museum. The powerful spaces that manipulate perspective and natural daylight to illuminate the artwork and create a peaceful, sensory experience is inspirational. Therefore I would love to experience the method behind the genius!