Sunday, September 15, 2013

The changing face of architecture

Phoenix Wang, The stereotypes - all egos, round spectacles and black turtlenecks - reflect the statistics: while equal number of male and female grads leave architecture school, only 18 per cent of registered architects are women. And yet, this is slowly changing, in part from groups like non-profit Architecture+Women NZ, which aims to raise the visibility of women in architecture. What does this new face of New Zealand architecture look like? Three women at various stages of their architecture careers, working across commercial architecture, housing and interiors in full-time and part-time roles, show a new direction for the design industry. Phoenix Wang's projects include the Comvita and Glassons shop designs Phoenix Wang's projects include the Comvita and Glassons shop designs Architect Phoenix Wang works at Studio Gascoigne - an award-winning architecture firm specialising in retail and commercial interiors. You used to work on high-end houses, now you work on commercial and retail interiors. Has that been a big switch, or do the same design principles still apply? It has been a switch, they're two different mind-sets on the way you design and the time frame that you're given. When I worked on high-end residential I worked very closely with my clients. That way I was given an insight into the way they live and what their interests are. It's was very personal journey. With retail and commercial design, I'm often designing to create an impact, and a response from the end user. Do you have a favourite project? I think one of my favourite jobs so far would have to be a small interior villa alteration project I worked on a few years ago. The client gave us a simple brief and pretty much let us have free rein on the design front. They fully trusted us to create a design that is suitable for the house. It's a very freeing feeling and privileged position to be. Most of the time, clients can question and doubt what you've designed for them, and the end result can be a watered-down version of your original idea. What do people not understand about architecture that you wish they would? Architecture is a response to the surrounding environment and has a permanent impact to the context it is within. Each design decision we make and each detail we draw interlinks closely on how it affects the rest of the building, so when clients ask us to just quickly draw a few sketches, or make a small change, it requires a whole thought-process of weighing up the pros and cons, and will take more than just a couple of minutes to do. People can assume interiors are easier than architecture. Is this the case? I think people see interior design as more of a surface decoration that is added into the base building, and it is not as complex in terms of its design process as designing a building. I find interiors both interesting and challenging in the way so much of it is to do with human behaviour. Through carefully crafted spaces you can attract people to enter a space, you can influence what they will interact with, and what their attention will fall upon. By Nicola Stock 7:30 AM Thursday Sep 12, 2013 It's really fascinating.

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