Best of est 2020 | Top 10 Australian Designers

  • WORDS Sophie Lewis & Lidia Boniwell
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    The Best of est 2020 series recognises 10 leading architects and designers spanning continent, approach and aesthetic in both Australia and around the globe. Criteria selection is based on design, editorial engagement, insights and analytics. In this feature, we’re exploring our top Australian designers. 

    Sydney architect Hannah Tribe believes 2020 was a year where the whole world practised design thinking by “moving with agility to adapt to new conditions”. It was also a year where Melbourne architect Emma Templeton says art and design were more important than ever, as we relied on art, music and performance – virtually – to bring joy and purpose. 

    Following on from our Top 10 International Designers we’re paying tribute to the role design plays in our lives closer to home, with those at the forefront: the Top 10 Australian architects and designers in 2020. As the new year begins, we asked our Australian top 10 what they’re looking forward to and what design means to them in 2021. Each shares lessons we can take into the future, approaching the year ahead in a way that Melbourne architect Stephen Jolson hopes is “wiser with our choices, and hungry to collaborate and innovate.”

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    Photography by Brett Boardman

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    Polly Harbison

    Polly Harbison

    Sydney architect Polly Harbison concerns herself with sustainable residential design and its inherent connection to landscape. Demonstrated in Polly’s most recent residential projects Castlecrag and Lindfield, she considers the “physical experience of a space” where “careful consideration during design of the daily ritual of life, can really bring joy”. The architect sees the past year as a lesson in the “importance of design creating nuanced delight where we live”.

    “Our studio has always embraced tactile materials and focused on the physical experience of spaces. In the past year, we have intensified our understanding of just how vital this emphasis on liveability and experiential qualities is.”

     

    – Polly Harbison

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    Photography by Brett Boardman

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    Photography by Brett Boardman

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    Photography by Brett Boardman

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    Emma Templeton

    Emma Templeton

    Melbourne architect Emma Templeton brings timeless restraint, a sensitive understanding of place and deep respect for history to her residential projects. As in her own East Melbourne home, Emma sees the importance of solving the puzzle a small footprint presents. “We seek to quietly remove unnecessary detail allowing the focus to be on the essential form and the feeling it evokes,” she says. Most recently, the architect took this vision to the Sussex House, exploring a home’s heritage in a considerate, contemporary context.

    “Art and design are more relevant than ever. We have become more aware of our intellectual and emotional requirements and have relied on art, music, and performance (albeit not live) to provide us with joy and purpose.”

     

    – Emma Templeton

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    Photography by Rory Gardiner

    “I think there is an opportunity to embrace positive change. I would like to see us focus on a more co-operative and more humble existence, embracing slowness, local neighbourhoods and caring for our environment.”

     

    – Melissa Bright

    Melissa Bright

    Architect Melissa Bright and her Melbourne studio are attuned to a project’s social and environmental fabric. With a suite of notable residential projects released in 2020, including Ruckers Hill House and Clinker Brick House, Studio Bright have affirmed their place in designing thoughtful, sustainable architecture for people and our cities. Melissa hopes in 2021 we have an openness to positive change that sees a renewed focus on caring for our communities and our environment.

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    Photography by Rory Gardiner

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    Melissa Bright

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    Photography by Rory Gardiner

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    Photography by Rory Gardiner

    “In 2021 I believe we will embrace the new year, wiser with our choices, and hungry to collaborate and innovate. I believe we will embrace our new freedom with compassion, and design our homes with a greater sensibility and sensitivity exploring space and flexibility, texture and light with a deeper appreciation, and with our eyes and arms wide open.”

     

    – Stephen Jolson

    Stephen Jolson

    Melbourne architect Stephen Jolson expresses a sense of place and timelessness in all of his projects. Be it his own factory home conversion, three-storey bayside home Arc Side or a large-scale commercial project, the architecture, interior and landscape are always in constant conversation. Stephen says he’s approaching this new year with a sense of passion and positivity, “hungry to collaborate and innovate” and to design homes with “greater sensibility and sensitivity”.

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    Stephen Jolson

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    Photography by Lucas Allen

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    Photography by Jean Luc Laloux

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    Photography by Lucas Allen

    “The whole world has practised design thinking – moving with agility to adapt to new conditions. I have been really surprised and impressed with how quickly we adapted to our new normal in the pandemic, and it gives me a lot of hope and optimism for how we will adapt to whatever we need to do to solve this climate crisis.”

     

    – Hannah Tribe

    Hannah Tribe

    Hannah Tribe approaches residential architecture with an artistic influence, in what she terms ‘architecture as portraiture’. The Sydney architect sees sustainability at the core of the buildings we love, alongside a deep understanding of the broader site context. “Design is always a connection to the best parts of our humanity – our ingenuity, our collaboration, our quest for beauty,” Hannah says. “I think this year has shown the importance of collaboration […] countries and communities that focus on the whole over the individual have fared so much better.”

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    Hannah Tribe

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    Photography by Katherine Lu

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    Photography by Katherine Lu

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    Photography by Katherine Lu

    “Design in 2021 means exercising patience, faith and stillness – qualities I’ve really had to practice cultivating in 2020.”

     

    – Yasmine Ghoniem

    Yasmine Ghoniem

    Yasmine Ghoniem’s recently formed solo studio YSG took out almost every Australian design award in 2020 with their Budge Over Dover project. Formerly one half of Amber Road, the Sydney-based designer credits a career in music and growing up in the desert as formative in shaping her courageous and unconventional approach to hospitality and residential design. This year, Yasmine is set to launch a bespoke furniture range.

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    Yasmine Ghoniem

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    Photography by Prue Ruscoe

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    Photography by Prue Ruscoe

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    Photography by Prue Ruscoe

    “We see design as an opportunity to explore uncharted territories. Our approach is driven by curiosity, with an element of risk-taking ensuring we remain creatively inspired and progressive.”

     

    – Miriam Fanning

    Miriam Fanning

    Melbourne designer Miriam Fanning has set a precedent for sophisticated modern Australian interiors. Celebrating 21 years of her namesake design practice Mim Design, Miriam defines her approach as being ‘driven by curiosity’ revealed through a diverse portfolio of high-end residential, retail, hospitality, corporate and five-star hotels. For Miriam, design is about “purposeful decision making, responding to the needs of clients and designing with form, function and reason”.

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    Miriam Fanning

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    Photography by Tom Blachford

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    Photography by Peter Clarke

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    Photography by Peter Clarke

    “2020 forced us to change our ways. Hopefully, as we emerge out of this we will be able to create a new framework one where we can design a new type of world. In a way, it’s like being given a second chance: an opportunity to pause, reevaluate and reimagine. I take it as a gift.”

     

    – Michael Leeton

    Michael Leeton

    Melbourne architect Michael Leeton has earned international recognition for his projects’ poetic forms and fluid curves, most notably with both Twig and Canopy House. Laser-focused on exceptional residential architecture, Michael sees design in 2021 as the ability to “imagine and create better ways to live, work and play”, offering the opportunity to reimagine and initiate new ways of thinking.

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    Michael Leeton

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    Photography by Lisa Cohen

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    Photography by Lisa Cohen

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    Photography by Lisa Cohen

    “Design led by trends are somewhat fickle and transient, however this extraordinary year has further reinforced to us that the fundamentals of design are, and always will be paramount. At Edition Office the foundational elements of design are to support the need for sanctuary, social and financial equality, and sustainability.”

     

    – Aaron Roberts

    Kim Bridgland and Aaron Roberts

    Melbourne architects Kim Bridgeland and Aaron Roberts design sanctuaries to offer a sense of connection inward and outward to the natural environment. Their body of work leans on raw materiality and experiments with new techniques to reverberate old processes. Aaron Roberts says 2020 reinforced the fundamentals of design, grounded in place, and community “that we need to support and be supported by”. This year Edition Office are looking forward to moving into a new studio where they hope the local design community can gather and exhibit.

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    Kim Bridgland and Aaron Roberts

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    Photography by Ben Hosking

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    Photography by Ben Hosking

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    Photography by Ben Hosking

    “In general the beauty and complexity of the natural world and the enormous scope for design inspiration it provides has been reinforced. We also remember the catastrophic bushfires that marked the start of the year. This has made us think about the role design can have in protecting and nurturing the earth and about the importance of knowing more about our country and its traditional owners – such a rich source of inspiration.”

     

    – Rachel Nolan

    Patrick Kennedy and Rachel Nolan

    Together with their Melbourne studioarchitects Patrick Kennedy and Rachel Nolan approach residential design as an expression of landscape and context. Playful in form, colour and texture, their award-winning projects hone rational and utilitarian modernist design. Reflecting on 2020, Rachel Nolan says they now have a sharpened understanding of domestic comfort and utility. “We have a renewed appreciation of the creative energy that our studio provides and of the importance of formal and informal human interactions to facilitate the design process,” she says.

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    Patrick Kennedy and Rachel Nolan

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    Photography by Derek Swalwell

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    Photography by Derek Swalwell

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    Photography by Derek Swalwell

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