The common misconception is the larger the architectural firm, the greater the resulting space. studio -gram is a small but growing architectural practice operating out of Adelaide that is quick to extinguish this theory. For a small team they are defiantly pulling their weight, gaining traction across the country and internationally since the studio’s inception in 2014.
studio -gram is the combined project from Dave Bickmore and Graham Charbonneau, two friends who met studying architecture at the University of South Australia. The pair are not unfamiliar with expansive architectural firms, with Dave moving on after study to work in the Melbourne office of Hassell. However, the working friendship was knitted back together when Graham, upon being offered to work on Sydney’s Hotel Harry and Motel Mexicola in Bali, convinced for Dave to join him in the foundation of their own studio.
With a dynamite working relationship tipped towards the eccentric, fun and stylishly excessive, the pair have risen to esteem, primarily for their memorable work in the hospitality industry. The quirky Motel Mexicola is celebrated as one of the most Intragrammed bars in the world and their other projects, such as Africola restaurant in Adelaide and Hotel Harry, share a similarly decadent interior. And although the team has mastered the fine line between fun and frantic, their work is able to adjust to create the world desired by their client.
studio -gram is a testament that design firms can not only survive outside of Australia’s two major cities, but also flourish. Both Graham and Dave pride themselves on their dedication to their clients, working closely with them to create spaces that speak to their hands-on approach and care.
We spoke with Graham about the creation of studio-gram, the benefits of starting small and the significance of the relationship between the designer and the dweller.
Tell us about your practice; where are you based, how long have you been there and what do you work on?
studio -gram is based in Adelaide, Goodwood to be exact. We formed in January 2014 and are currently a studio of four, looking to expand to five or six in the near future. We are most well known for our work in the hospitality sector, however we also work across a range of project types in the residential and commercial sectors. We are all trained as architects, however we do offer a full service on all of our projects from base building architecture through to interiors and styling. We are also currently developing our first furniture line that we hope to get into production before the end of the year.
Do you have a reoccurring theme, style or signature that you carry throughout your projects, or do you embrace the individuality of each project?
We pride ourselves on not having a reoccurring theme. We believe that every project deserves to be interrogated from the first principals. The project should be a representation of the client, the craft or the business that is attached to it. It should not be a representation of ‘our’ style. We strive to create unique projects that are a true reflection of the characters that create them.
What has been your favourite project to date?
I am not sure we could identify a favourite project. We love all of our projects for different reasons. We don’t have any ‘hidden’ projects, we don’t believe in taking projects unless we are interested in the outcome that we are trying to create. All of our projects are shown the same love. It’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child.
What’s your favourite aspect of your practice?
The smallness of our studio is something that we all love. We have a lot of friendly banter that keeps us smiling day in and day out. We approach our practice the same way that we approach our lives. We are very serious about what we do, however we approach that in the most laid back way that we can.
What are the main day-to-day challenges that you’re presented with?
Design is constantly challenging us. The talent pool in Australia is amazing at the moment. We are always trying to keep up or stay ahead of the curve, a little bit of friendly competition goes a long way.
Do you feel mass media and social platforms like Instagram are influencing the industry?
There aren’t many projects these days that don’t come with some kind of association to Pinterest, a design-based TV show or Instagram. Clients are more informed than ever. They typically know what they like – or they think they know what they like – based on something that they have seen. It is becoming more important to take clients on an almost educational journey through the concept phases of a project, to expose them to more than what their social media accounts have decided they like.
How do you see the architecture industry right now, are there any shifts that you’ve noticed?
I feel that clients within all scales of work are starting to take more notice of the ‘little guy’. They are beginning to understand that the big office doesn’t necessarily offer anything more than the small office. In fact, clients are noticing that the small studios can often offer better consultation and a more hands-on approach from the directors of the business. The client gets to engage with the whole studio and the process is more collaborative.
What period of architecture and design, geography or people inspire you?
We are lovers of modernism in our office. I don’t think we can pinpoint it to a certain architect or designer, it is more about the whole period of art, architecture and design history. There was a certain simplicity driven by innovation in materials, techniques and forms. As far as geography is concerned, we have an equal split in our office with two Australians and two Canadians and we truly feel that the diversity of our surroundings whilst growing up has a great influence on our design outcomes.
How important to you is sustainability in architecture and interior design?
Sustainability is very important. We firmly believe in the positive outcomes that sustainable design can have on the industry and the broader community. It’s not something that should be considered as an add-on, it should be intrinsically linked to the whole.
How important to you is the relationship between design and interactivity, do our spaces influence how we live, work and play?
Our process relies on the relationship between architecture, interior design and interactivity. The whole purpose of space and spatial design relies on occupants. Those same occupants are constantly interacting with the space, whether that is on an active or a subconscious level. Spaces influence the way that occupants use the space and, equally, occupants influence the way a space is used through their patterns of living.