Five Mile Radius
For this Brisbane-based studio, all projects are underpinned by an ultra-local focus on material use, re-use and disposal.
After years of working within a traditional architectural framework, including specifying new materials from all over the world, Clare Kennedy felt it was time to do things differently. It was an encounter with Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophies that inspired her professional shift. “I became interested in Gandhi’s understanding of socioeconomics and the environment,” says the Brisbane-based architect. “He had asked people to build using materials found within five miles of their homes, so I wanted to explore this premise as a driver for design.”
Clare established Five Mile Radius in 2016, taking a multi-arm approach to explore material sustainability through architecture, manufacture and education. She is one of three fulltime studio members – alongside architect Tom O’Shea and architecture student Hunter Eccleston – with many other collaborators, all of whom work out of a 130-year-old brass foundry in central Brisbane.
Whether producing small-scale public architecture, interior fitouts, installations or products,
Five Mile Radius begins each project with material-based questions. Can we build entirely from recycled materials? What will happen to concrete waste on this building site? How many materials can we make from this one kind of soil? The outcome is always an exercise in rethinking and redefining the making process. It’s also an opportunity for studio members to assert their belief that architects should take responsibility for the lifespan of all components comprising a project.
This ethos is thoroughly expressed in Five Mile Radius’s recent product Waste Terrazzo, a robust and crisply modern concrete side table originally created for an installation at Botanica Festival 2019. The table is made entirely from local construction waste and aims to spark a much needed dialogue about the surplus remnants from a city’s creation. Another exemplary Five Mile Radius product is the Telegraph Stool, a rustic piece made from decommissioned telegraph poles. As Clare explains, “Every year 200,000 telegraph poles are replaced because a small section of the pole becomes waterlogged. The rest of the pole is perfectly re-usable, but due to a lack of industry awareness, 80 percent of these timber poles go to landfill.”
Any profits Five Mile Radius makes go back into material research, experimentation and education, which underscores the studio’s investment in the future of Australia’s built environment. While its projects are strongly informed by theories about circular economies and designing for assembly and material transparency, its attention to aesthetics is no less potent – a lo-fi yet stylish minimalism, all delivered with a better practice conscience.