Designing for Longevity with Hannah Tribe

In conversation with director of Tribe Studio, Hannah Tribe to discuss her material of choice – bricks – and how they are fundamental to her Sydney practice.

Architect Hannah Tribe established her namesake studio nearly 20 years ago. With a penchant for residential architecture, the director set out to design energising, optimistic, rational and sustainable homes in Sydney. The director’s ambition has always been to deliver responsive design, that reflects both how the clients aspire to live, but also the broader site context; in what Hannah Tribe calls, a portrait.

With a number of acclaimed projects to their name, such as House Au Yeung and most recently, their Darlinghurst project, Tribe Studio’s work has become a case study for brick application. A defining hallmark of Hannah Tribe’s work, we sat down with the architect to discuss designing homes for the Sydney climate and why the architect will only use quality bricks to design homes for the future.

Produced in partnership with Brickworks.

House Au Yeung

Tribe Studio are always looking for something unique with every project, that is true to the place and its people. “What unifies our work is an ambitious drive, leaning towards a contextual response and a move away from trends,” Hannah says.

The studio articulates a home’s expression of the clients’ lives and their family, dissecting ideas about retreat, privacy, public and communal areas. “I often describe our projects as portraits,” Hannah says. “You can see the hand of the artist, but in the end, the house is absolutely about the people who have the great privilege to commission it.”

Hannah Tribe has also led their contribution to the greater context of Sydney’s architectural vernacular because every project has the opportunity to ‘make a city better’.“How can we build with civic interest and generosity towards the public domain?” Hannah questions. “While looking at the individual, we ask that with every project,” she adds. “The whole process is understanding domesticity and what houses mean.”

“Bricks get more beautiful with age. They become more themselves as they get older, wear really well and are low maintenance.”

– Architect Hannah Tribe

House Au Yeung

Darlinghurst Apartment

To design these tailored places to live, Hannah Tribe relies most fervently on the material of brick. Firmly grounding homes in a sense of place with the mud beneath them, bricks are well connected to Sydney’s history and with craftsmanship. A common material in Sydney’s built landscape, as a result of the city’s clay soils, bricks have laid the foundation to Sydney’s heritage buildings and continue to appear as a common thread throughout the city.

“There’s something very poetic about building from the earth on the site,” Hannah says. “In an era where we’re constantly looking at flat screens, I love the craftiness of brick and the scale to the human.” It’s this traceability, where every brick has been touched, handled and carried to the site and laid, that Hannah is drawn to time and time again.

The architect is quick to admit, that bricks are an obvious choice for the way they deal with Sydney’s heat. “We’ve got a diurnal temperature shift in Sydney, so bricks re-radiate heat from the day in the night and coolness into the house during the day,” she says.

Naturally, bricks have been used in the firm’s alteration and addition projects, responding to the existing brick home with the original palette of materials while creating a passive thermal environment. Hannah Tribe also uses bricks in a way makes them ‘not appear brand new’. “Bricks get more beautiful with age,” she says. “They become more themselves as they get older, wear really well and are low maintenance.”

Hannah says that while there’s something really pleasing about the repetitive nature of bricks, she loves their playful geometry. The architect is unyielding about the importance of quality, favouring Brickworks’ range of bricks and blocks, when not using recycled bricks on site.

House Collins

Looking to the future, Tribe Studio are steadfast on their commitment to designing sustainable homes, promoting longevity and lifecycle of materials. “On the drawing board, we’ve got a house with black bricks, white bricks, a bunch with red bricks, some brown bricks and some concrete bricks – we’re just a whole brick party over here,” Hannah laughs. She also looks holistically to how we can create housing for our entire population, addressing social housing and emergency relief housing with her same approach to design.

Hannah Tribe tells stories of place and what it means to live in Sydney, through melding the material of brick. Designing long-lasting homes is a given, as the studio traces changes in domesticity, advances in technology and how we can live more mindfully in the future.

This designer interview is part of a series on how leading contemporary architects and design figures use bricks, in partnership with Brickworks. See the est favourites here or take a look at Brickworks on the est product library.

House Collins

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