From Strength to Strength
Feature Interview
Brunswick, VIC, Australia

Words Rose Onans
Photography Dave Kulesza

Since Ross Gardam established his eponymous industrial design studio in 2007, the studio has gone from strength to strength, growing the team and debuting collections to widespread acclaim locally and internationally.

Now, the Melbourne-based design team have recently moved into a new studio in Brunswick. Previously based in the CBD, the new space, which they share with MRTN Architects, triples their studio space with room for a meeting room, design studio and workshop.

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Members of the Ross Gardam team in their new studio. Photography by Dave Kulesza & shoot styling by Bea+Co.

‘This year has by far been our largest from both a product output perspective and external exhibition, with the studio fit out and such’, says Ross. A brief overview of the year to date shows how necessary it was to expanding into the new studio. So far in 2018 Ross Gardam have previewed the ‘Noon’ collection during Milan Design Week with Local Design, launched the brand in New York at ICFF (the International Contemporary Furniture Fair) and released the new collection ‘Adapt’, as well as lighting products ‘Ora’ and ‘Hemera’.

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Ross Gardam Noon Collection Feature Product Australian Design Image 1
The Noon Collection by Ross Gardam - drawing inspiration from the ‘passing of time’. Photographed by Haydn Cattach.
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Ross designing at his desk. Photography by Dave Kulesza & styling by Bea+Co.

Based on five base elements, ‘Adapt’ is a modular series of lounges and accessories and is the largest collection Ross Gardam have released. ‘Adapt’ is a growing collection too, and will continue to evolve as new elements are designed. ‘I am really proud of the studio to be able to work on a project of this scale’, Ross says , ‘and I believe ‘Adapt’ stands out not only in locally produced product of its type but offers something new on an international level to this category.’ Meanwhile, with the preview in Milan in April as part of the Local Design exhibition, ‘Noon’, Ross explains, ‘has also been a long project and brings together a number of different types of objects including rugs, tables, mirrors and modular upholstered pieces.’

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The new studio was designed in partnership with MRTN Architects, with whom they share the Brunswick studio. Photography by Dave Kulesza & styling by Bea+Co.

‘Hemera’, a desk-lamp, was created as part of the ‘New Volumes’ collection with Artedomus. Crafted from the Italian marble elba, the lamp was inspired by Brutalism. The light shining from between the two pieces of solid stone has the effect almost of a Biblical revelation, while the smooth Brutalist forms are keenly contemporary. ‘The development of the product has thrown up it’s challenges’, Ross admits, ‘however, it’s been one of the more enjoyable products I have worked on.’ The new studio space will facilitate the growing team of eight’s design process, which involves each designer working on one or two products at any given time, in close collaboration with Ross. ‘This is a nice way to work’, he says, and the approach ‘exposes everyone to the full gamut of stages in the design process, as well as keeping me busy overseeing multiple projects’.

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The Hemera desk lamp designed by Ross Gardam for New Volumes is powerful in its simplicity of form. Photographed by Sean Fennessy and styled by Nat Turnbull.
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Ross is hesitant to define a signature aesthetic or style to his work, preferring to ‘leave that to others to judge’. Nevertheless, Ross Gardam designs have become known for their radical simplicity. ‘All the products are shaped in a way by place’, Ross says. ‘I draw upon local materials and manufacturing techniques, however, I try not to let this define the aesthetic. I like things that are refined and look like they were always meant to be.’

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Ross seated in the ‘Noon’ lounge. Photography by Dave Kulesza & styling by Bea+Co.
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This arguably follows from the foundational design principle of ‘form follows function’, which Ross says is ‘one of the basic theories I was taught in Industrial Design back a university and still flows through into everything we do’. Counterintuitively, he explains that often the simplest form following from function is the hardest to manufacture, but the team are clearly up for the challenge.

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Ross Gardam are renowned for their approach to local design.

All lighting is assembled and packaged in the studio almost everything is sourced in Melbourne including timber, ceramics and metal work ‘however, we get our mouth blown glass completed in Adelaide by the talented team at the Jam Factory’, says Ross. Pairing with a select group of local manufacturers, they clearly work hard to ensure each piece is pared back to the essentials, allowing the materials to shine. The challenge may also be part of the appeal – as Ross says, ‘l must also admit it’s fun to play with functionality and I am partial to a magnetic articulating function on a desk lamp!’

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The Ora desklamp a favourite of Ross’s, created in collaboration with his father Matt on a metal lathe. Photography by Dave Kulesza & styling by Bea+Co.

Ensconced in their new studio home, which they designed in collaboration with MRTN Architects and fitted out in a whirlwind three-week period, the team continue to hone their designs with unabated creative output. If 2018 is anything to go by, the next year in the larger Brunswick studio will be one to watch.

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Ross and Antony Martin of MRTN Architects.
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Photography by Dave Kulesza & styling by Bea+Co.
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A circular motif is used throughout Polar Desk Lamp defining its minimal operative form. Photographed by Hayd Cattach.
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The Hemera designed by Ross Gardam for the New Volumes Collection 01. Made of Elba marble, a beautiful, natural stone that is hard-wearing, long-lasting, resilient and distinctly easy to live with.
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The Noon Tables are graphic in nature and offer striking material combinations confined within an outer ring. Photographed by Hayd Cattach.
Published 19 October, 2018
Photography  Dave Kulesza
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