Lara Nobel, a third-year carpentry student at TAFE Queensland, recently won first prize in a SkillsTech’s student video competition for her kitchen renovation at her mum’s 100-year-old Queenslander home.

Nobel is also a qualified architect and works at Greg Thornton Constructions.

Architecture and Design spoke to her about changing careers from architecture to carpentry, what she learnt from a study tour of Japan, and studying in Berlin.

You're into the third year of your apprenticeship. What is the most valuable lesson you've learnt?

That I personally learn best by doing.

You've completed a Master of Architecture. What prompted you to study carpentry?

I wasn't that good at sitting in an office all day every day and needed to learn more about how buildings are built and how to detail well. I love being on-site and seeing something tangible at the end of a days work. I also like being physically tired, as well as mentally.

In 2010 you completed a study tour in Japan. How did the study tour help you in your approach to the property industry?

The focus of the tour was micro homes, or small spaces. The construction industry in Japan is vastly different – (check out this article for a brief comparison that was done by a UQ lecturer: 20 shades of beige: lessons from Japanese prefab housing)

My main interest in Japanese architecture is in maximising the use of space and materials through design and of course the art of Japanese joinery!

You also studied in Berlin. What was that experience like?

Berlin is an amazing city! I loved it there. I learnt more than I have the time to describe it.

Briefly, one key lesson was that they made good use of a bad situation when a lot of the city got destroyed. Most of the housing was tightly squeezed together and sufficient light, ventilation and privacy was a real issue. When they started to re-build they put in regulations to ensure that apartments would get better light etc.

If you could go back and change one thing about your study, what would it be?

I would probably have started a trade straight after school. I expressed an interest in joinery but my parents encouraged architecture. It is a pretty minor regret because I love the combo of study.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?  

I would ideally like to combine architecture and construction (three days on-site and two days in the office designing/drafting would be a sweet week).

Also, as I get crippled – carpentry can be quite hard on your body – I might be able to lean more on the architecture.

Also myself, my boss and my boyfriend are starting a business building tiny homes on trailers – the tiny house company. We don’t have a website yet, but hopefully we'll have one built in a couple of months.