A win­ning for­mula of science and art is the cat­a­lyst for a de­sign aes­thetic that’s pure chem­istry.

Belle - - Contents - Por­trait SHARYN CAIRNS Edited by KAREN MCCART­NEY

Sue Carr’s de­sign aes­thetic com­bines science and art.

I WAS AWARE that Sue Carr, prin­ci­pal of Mel­bourne prac­tice Carr, was a pioneer be­fore I met her. What I didn’t re­alise was on how many fronts she chal­lenged the sta­tus quo and how her mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary of­fice has been forged out of her de­ter­mi­na­tion and clar­ity of thought. A sci­en­tist who, driven by cu­rios­ity, jumped uni­ver­sity cour­ses mid­stream to take up in­te­rior de­sign at RMIT, Carr’s ed­u­ca­tional back­ground en­sures the place of logic, of an in­ter­est in how fix­ings work and of con­struc­tion tech­niques and the ar­chi­tec­tural ex­pres­sion of ma­te­ri­als. This was con­trary to the per­cep­tion of what in­te­rior de­sign en­tailed. “Then, de­sign’s defin­ing role was seen as se­lect­ing the cur­tains and cush­ions,” she says. Her life­long am­bi­tion has been to raise the pro­file of good de­sign in in­te­rior spa­ces. “For me the con­cept be­hind any project does not de­lin­eate be­tween in­side and out­side, in­te­rior and ex­te­rior – it is the whole that is most cru­cial – the light, the spa­ces, the feel, the ma­te­ri­al­ity.”

Now the prac­tice, which launched its ar­chi­tec­ture di­vi­sion in 2002, is able to con­trol all these as­pects within the one project, and she talks with feel­ing about how an empty space, be­fore it is fur­nished, should de­liver an up­lift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence through the fall of light, in­ter­play of ma­te­ri­als, flow of space, and sen­sa­tion of air and breezes. This ab­sence of things may seem con­trary for some­one trained in in­te­rior de­sign but her aes­thetic has al­ways been pow­ered by the ar­chi­tec­tural.

The rigour, ap­plied to spa­tial and ar­chi­tec­tural con­cerns, is equalled by that de­voted to fur­ni­ture choices. In the 70s when her friends were sit­ting in bal­loon-backed pink vel­vet Vic­to­rian-style chairs, she was im­port­ing Eames chairs from the US as her din­ing chairs. The hon­esty of their ex­posed struc­ture and light­weight alu­minium frame com­bined with com­fort and func­tion­al­ity ap­pealed to Carr and she still looks to these time­less qual­i­ties for all her in­te­rior pieces. “I have been go­ing to Mi­lan fur­ni­ture fair since it started and am al­ways on the look­out for what will be­come an im­por­tant piece of fur­ni­ture in time. It is our modus operandi – we are dis­cern­ing,” she ex­plains. This dis­cern­ment, this dis­til­la­tion of taste, is matched by a drive for the busi­ness to be at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy. She quotes the late US ar­chi­tect Philip John­son who said: “Great tech­nolo­gies breed great ar­chi­tec­ture.” Carr cut her teeth with a cou­ple of ground­break­ing projects in the early 90s that were avant-garde at the time – an au­to­mated, teller­less bank branch in Syd­ney’s Chatswood and the Aus­tralian Se­cu­ri­ties Ex­change in Mel­bourne, which rev­o­lu­tionised trad­ing with its first-ever LED dig­i­tal dis­play board and touch-screen ter­mi­nals.

Never one to over­play her hand, she is a purist in that ma­te­ri­als, and their in­ter­ac­tions, are not dis­guised but cel­e­brated and in­te­rior de­sign de­ci­sions are there to sup­port the in­tegrity of the struc­ture. Carr has de­vel­oped an aes­thetic that is en­tirely of her own mak­ing, while at the same time train­ing con­sec­u­tive gen­er­a­tions of ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers who, while ab­sorb­ing her ethos give it their own hand­writ­ing. This en­sures the lan­guage of the prac­tice evolves and every so­lu­tion is be­spoke and every idea is ex­plored, as the two streams of the busi­ness work hand-in-hand to­wards 21st-cen­tury out­comes.

In a fast-paced world where clients need a deep un­der­stand­ing of new ways of ac­com­mo­dat­ing work­force engagement, lev­els of lux­ury in hos­pi­tal­ity or res­i­den­tial tow­ers that de­liver a qual­ity of life that en­gages with na­ture, Carr is aware of the value an in­te­grated ap­proach brings. With in­te­rior de­sign no longer the “poor cousin” and a greater dia­logue be­tween the two dis­ci­plines, she sees this as a pos­i­tive for clients. “With the ar­chi­tec­tural di­vi­sion con­cen­trat­ing on lo­ca­tion, con­text and plan­ning and the in­te­ri­ors team on the ex­pe­ri­ence of the in­ter­nal spa­ces we can en­sure an en­tirely seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence,” says the in­te­rior de­signer.

Her life­long am­bi­tion has been to raise the pro­file of good de­sign in in­te­rior spa­ces.

Sue Carr, Chris Mccue and Dan Cox of Carr were shot ex­clu­sively for Belle.

MEL­BOURNE ARTFUL PAS­SAGES HANOI FRESH IDEA As Viet­nam steps up its ur­ban­i­sa­tion there is grow­ing aware­ness of how ar­chi­tects re­spond to in­creased den­sity. With H&P Ar­chi­tects’ ‘Prop­erly Breath­ing House’ (left) both in­ter­nal voids and an ex­ter­nal dou­ble sk

BLUE MOUN­TAINS RUS­TIC RE­DE­FINED Pir­ramimma Gar­den Pavil­ion (above), set in an ex­tra­or­di­nary gar­den, was project man­aged by John Dil­lon and de­signed by Craig Bur­ton of CAB Con­sult­ing. Crafted in sal­vaged cy­press and corten steel and care­fully con­structed


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STOKE NEWINGTON BAR­RETTS GROVE Bar­retts Grove is a six-storey apart­ment block (right and be­low) built in cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber and open brick­work, fin­ished with wicker bal­conies and fences. Its form echoes the area’s pitched roofs while its nat­u­ral mater

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