Here’s the brief: Design an innovative and sustainable 50-person seminar theatre space.The project needs to designed so that it can be installed or removed within a 24-hour period. In terms of sustainability, no components of the design are allowed to go to landfill after the project is complete. The overall budget for the project is $10,000. The client also requests the proposed designs express DesignBUILD’s 2019 thematic of ‘Setting a New Standard’. Are you up for the challenge? 

Third year UNSW interior architecture students certainly were when they were presented with the client brief as part of their program this year. Tasked with executing the brief, the students had the opportunity to work on a real-world project in the design practice studio led by Interior Architecture Senior Lecturer, Dr Sing D'Arcy.

“Within the interior architecture program, we aim to connect learning to real-life problems and real-life people,” Dr D’Arcy says. “Part of this is, is achieved through engaging community, government and industry stakeholders in our design studio projects. Students get first-hand experience of the complex nature of the design process, dealing with clients and consultants, and pitching their ideas. The most rewarding aspect is having their design proposals appraised by these stakeholders, and in the case of DesignBUILD students, they get to see their projects constructed. 

The client chose the winning proposal designed by students Grace Jenkins and Mackenzie Peachey. Their installation theatre called ‘Paper Bound’ fuses architecture and interior landscape to create an experiential piece which unfolds for visitors as it is perceived through each individual’s interpretation of design and common practice standards. The seemingly simplistic design features a curation of 100% sustainable practices and materials. 

Motivation behind studying interior architecture

Ms Jenkins says she was always drawn to architecture from a young age, with a particular interest in interiors. “My sister and I built houses out of balsa wood in a bid to help my parents design their renovations. The inspiration came from the many open houses we were dragged along to and the numerous architecture books that surrounded us, as my parents are also very interested in architecture.” 

Ms Peachey says her ethos in terms of design, and life for that matter, centres around the unconventional. Studying interior architecture allows her to explore these ideas further. “I thrive on shocking and startling audiences, giving people the opportunity to ridicule the modern world and question their surroundings. Architecture has ultimately allowed me to incubate my desire for reaction.”

As the winning proposal, the installation was built and showcased at the May 2019 DesignBUILD expo held in Sydney – one of the largest design and construction trade events in Australia. It was a proud moment forthe students.

“It was quite a remarkable moment when we learned our proposal was selected to be showcased within DesignBUIILD this year. It was mind-boggling to see what was once a sketch on a page, transform into a physical structure standing before of us. The installation we shaped, allowed visitors from across the world to see compliance and enforcement systems through a new lens, relevant to the idea behind Design Build 2019: Setting a New Standard,” Ms Peachey says. 

Ms Jenkins says it was a great honour to have their work selected to be built and exhibited at DesignBUILD. “Like most students, my designs have only ever been seen on paper, so it was very exciting to actually see the process from concept to the final product and how similar the physical structure was to our original design,” she says. “While completing previous assignments, I have always worried that my designs were too wild and could never be built due to the fact that they weren’t physically feasible, but being chosen showed me that designs are always just an adjustment away from possibility. I now have great confidence in myself when completing other assignments.”

Exposure to real world clients

The students both found the exposure to real world clients and build capabilities during their studies invaluable. “As students, the idea of abruptly moving straight from the university environment to ‘the real world’ can be quite daunting. However, UNSW Built Environment's program facilitates opportunities like DesignBUILD, allowing students to be exposed to real world clients and feel more comfortable making that transition. As a student, I am truly so appreciative of the staff within the Built Environment, as it is so important to feel supported throughout our journeys,” Ms Peachey says. 

Ms Jenkins says as an interior architecture student, you are generally told to experiment and ‘go wild’. “This is due to the fact that with our assignments, we don’t have the constraints of budgets and feasibility,” she says. “Due to the freedom within our assignments, this real work experience is important as a student as it is a glimpse of what awaits us in the working world. I believe that it is important for us to collaborate with real-world clients, as students must learn to work within constraints from clients and feasibility of construction. 

To find out more about the wide range of degrees and career options at UNSW, come along to UNSW Open Day 2019 on Saturday 7 September from 9am until 4pm.