Claire Scorpo
Feature Interview
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Photography Lillie Thompson
Words Ashley Gladwish

“There was an era where architecture was more affordable and accessible to the wider population. I believe there are base qualities that architects can bring to the common and everyday components of our built environment, to be considered with the same merit and values as other more visible projects.”

For Claire Scorpo, the purpose of architecture is far greater than the sum of its parts. A fixation on static dichotomies has mandated the perception of interiors and exteriors, and the public and private, as separate. It is this conceptualisation that Claire believes limits our richness in designing spaces, whether it be a bespoke home, building, or an addition to an existing dwelling. Claire wants to push the field of architecture to work harder, to reconceptualise the role of the environment and landscape in their influence on design, and to dissolve the line between outside and in. Taking on mostly residential projects, Claire talks about the meaning behind her commissioned project, Stitchfield, and her ongoing research and pilot test case in affordability architecture.

Located in Fitzroy, Victoria, Claire started her own multidisciplinary practice, Claire Scorpo Architects, in 2014. With an interest in the cross pollination across disciplines, Claire likes to be around other creatives and cites the collaborative process involving both technical, contractual elements, as well as design, as what she finds most appealing about working in the industry. Spending her formative years in a merchant builders estate characterised by a mix of semi-communal and private housing acted as a reserve in fuelling her future ideas of creating community. Claire sees homes and buildings as not just private spaces but as places that can be broken up to yield better ideas for creating inclusivity; ideas Claire believes, will progress the future of how we live.

Although most notably known for designing the Sydney Opera House, Claire cites Danish architect Jørn Utzon and his work on systemised housing as most worthy of recognition for it diminished the distinction between private and public spaces. For Claire, the field of architecture has a real possibility of framing a communal way of living, an aspect that is very much alive in Denmark. With each project, Claire tries to incorporate both research and testing in order to progressively build a pilot case to determine a model congruent with affordability housing. If successful, Claire would like to see the pilot case built repetitively to address the concern that architecture exists only within the silos of bespoke and costly residential buildings and homes. Claire wants everyone to have access to stable housing, a wish she hopes the pilot case will address once it can be replicated and considered low cost.

The use of landscape architecture intertwines with this ideal. Within her work, Claire likes to carve up areas that are considered strictly interior or exterior to allow for multiple spaces. With each maintaining a different identity, Claire utilises garden spaces, light, exterior culinary areas and active outdoor spaces. She wants the landscape to be a part of everyday life and believes it should be considered porous to our interiors as it enhances our spaces in the richness and meaning it creates, independent of architecture itself. Because of this, Claire seeks to keep her designs simple. Her focus is outside the realm of aesthetics in terms of texture and materials. Instead, she wants private spaces to start flowing into a communal environment, to utilise materials that are suitable for it’s purpose and to maintain focus on enhancing ideas about the relationship between people and spaces, and how relationships can be made better by removing the barrier between private and public.

Her commissioned piece, Stitchfield, is an extension of her ideals as it aligns with idea of community and how we are better as a collective. Curated by herself and Elliat Rich, Stitchfield is a part of DESIGN-MADE which commences today.

Now in it’s second year, Stitchfield is an installation made up of raw, unfinished brass pieces made to tarnish over time. The pieces attach to each other, lock and weave to form a singular installation that grows and changes based on the people working on it. Originally formed as part of the colloquium, collaboration and women in design, Elliat and Claire wanted to create a catalyst for communication and knowledge sharing. In determining the concept for Stitchfield, they discussed women’s work traditionally and what women’s work is worth. They looked at both the tangible and intangible aspects as well as the social and participatory networks that become established with women’s work, whether that be in living circles or the domestic work that women often come together to share knowledge on. As the installation is shaped by how people collaborate, the conversations they have, and the knowledge they share amongst each other, Stitchfield illustrates how we can grow and build from the influence of others and the importance of community and working collectively. The project is open to the public and is let down three times a day to be shaped and designed by those who hold it’s pieces.

Citing projects that have a role in tackling bigger, systemic issues, as a source of inspiration, Claire seeks to progress the role of architecture and its ability to be a part of something greater than itself. For Claire, architecture and design cannot be viewed as independent of the solution in addressing housing affordability and maintains that the industry has a responsibility in creating community through development and planning irregardless of an area’s socio-economic position. Living in a 24 square metre apartment in Melbourne’s Cairo building, the apartment building mandates a communal way of living. It is this way of living that she wishes to replicate in her work and the framework she wants to instil on her students in her role at RMIT.

Join us for a special experience as Claire Scorpo reveals the origins of Stitchfield, a site-specific installation originally commissioned by Design Tasmania, recreated exclusively for DESIGN-MADE. Purchase tickers here.

Photographed by Lillie Thompson.

Published 27 October, 2017
Photography  Lillie Thompson
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