Meet Kennedy Nolan head of interiors Adriana Hanna; one of the faces behind a portfolio of thoughtfully refined yet playful homes designed for the future.
Adriana Hanna describes architecture and design as the practice of observation and creative problem-solving. The Melbourne architect has addressed projects from this standpoint since she was a graduate at Kennedy Nolan, under the guidance of principals Patrick Kennedy and Rachel Nolan. Seeing architecture as its most complete expression when treated holistically, together they’ve established an ingenious, award-winning approach to residential design.
Kennedy Nolan’s Erskine House recently graced the cover of est Magazine Issue #38. Redefining an old Victorian as a unified family home by looking at it from a number of different angles, the studio tapped into a dense colour palette – and most pertinently, arresting blue hues. For Adriana, colour assists in creating identity and stories in a home, enhancing the visual and tactile experience and in turn, evoking particular feelings and emotions.
In our conversation with Adriana, we learn more about her personal aesthetic and how it’s informed by a variety of creative disciplines, how her home is her visual diary, and how it has served her in 2020. Adriana also shares how she has adapted to finding new ways for collaboration and creativity when it can’t be done face-to-face and where she continues to seek out inspiration from 20th-century art and architecture.
Could you please briefly talk through your journey to becoming head of interiors at Kennedy Nolan; one of Australia’s leading architecture studios?
Adriana Hanna: Following the completion of my bachelor’s degree at Sydney University in 2006 I moved to Melbourne to pursue my Masters of Architecture at RMIT. While I was studying, I joined Kennedy Nolan. At the time, there was only seven of us. As a graduate of architecture, I was given the responsibility of running projects under the guidance of principals Patrick Kennedy and Rachel Nolan. Very early, they instilled the view that architecture attains its most complete expression when the building, interiors, landscape are treated holistically.
From there my appetite for ‘design’ was more broadly acquired. With each project, I would research and gather material outside of work to critically engage with the wider practice of design, ensuring each project is developed and curated to be coherent. Over time I gained the reputation of being the fixtures, fittings, finishes, lighting, and furniture nut; all the while being fortunate enough to document and administer architectural projects and gain my registration.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Adriana Hanna: There is a quote from Paola Navone that has always resonated with me; ‘everything starts from journeys’. My aesthetic has been cultivated through my own journeys; years of engaging with arts, culture and a variety of creative disciplines such as fashion, industrial, interiors and architecture, both local and international.
My aesthetic inevitably aligns with the practice and much like the practice, I am strongly influenced by 20th-century art and architecture, from the classic modernists to the exuberant post-modernists. More personally, my aesthetic could be described as thoughtfully refined yet playful.
How do you challenge conventions while working with a client; how much is client choice or your own desire to push the boundaries?
Adriana Hanna: The client’s personality and trust are instrumental in the making of any unique project. Architecture and design is the practice of observation and creative problem-solving. Each project comes with different parameters being client, budget, climate, site context and social context. There is care and conviction in the practice approach and each project doesn’t necessarily manifest in the same design outcome. We don’t actively challenge conventions, our intent is to create something highly responsive to the client and site that cannot be replicated.
What’s your favourite kind of brief to work on?
Adriana Hanna: In my experience, most briefs are a prosaic shopping list of spaces. While this is pragmatic and useful it is the simple and non-prescriptive brief that provides much more flexibility and creativity. It’s in these instances our examination of a client’s stories and personality that help us create a distinctive interpretation that resonates specifically with them.
What materials do you like to work with the most and how do you use them in new and unexpected ways?
Adriana Hanna: As designers in the current climate, we are increasingly conscious of the embodied energy in the products and materials we nominate. We aim to ensure that they are either local or have purpose and function rather than ornament. We tend to look for honest and imperfect materials with nuance and depth that become richer with age and use. Materials that have an absence of transient fashions.
As a practice we have a reliable repository of go-to materials that we have been using for years: brick, render, travertine, local timbers, slate, Japanese tiles, and Laminex. Recently we were engaged by Laminex to collaborate on a series of spaces to demonstrate the versatility of the material. As with every project, our approach was to create something individual and authentic. In order to do this, we research and communicate with our suppliers, builders and craftspeople to learn how we can extend a materials use. These relationships with our local suppliers and contractors are invaluable to our design process.
What is the importance of colour and texture in your projects?
Adriana Hanna: For us, colour evokes feeling and emotions and can assist in creating identity and stories. Colour is at the forefront of the design process and each client and project demands its own approach to the use of colour. Other than the applied colour we are drawn to materials with inherent colours like stone or tiles. This saturation of colour combined with innate texture heightens the human visual and tactile experience.
Could you please set the scene in 2020; what particular challenges have you experienced with COVID-19?
Adriana Hanna: Our studio is a highly-creative and collaborative environment, every project is the product of a diverse team. Each team member brings unique and valuable skills and experience. Not being able to have incidental or formal face-to-face conversations has been challenging; this form of engagement is invaluable to our process not only in the studio but also on-site with our builders, tradespeople and craftspeople. However, like everyone we are adapting and finding a way to stay connected through a variety of platforms.
Could you please describe your own abode – including the special objects within – and what it’s been like to work from home?
Adriana Hanna: My home is like a visual diary; it’s an insight into my appreciation and adoration for 20th Century design both local and international. My home is a collection of design pieces which I have slowly assembled over the past 15 years from Le Corbusier, Isamu Noguchi, Charlotte Perriand, Tobia Scarpa, Paola Piva and George Nelson, alongside local artworks and ceramics. I enjoy the ambiguity they create of whether they are vintage or contemporary pieces, and more importantly their perpetuity; one day they will be passed on for others to enjoy as much as I have and those before me.
Working from home has created a newfound appreciation for our garden; a few years ago my partner and I set out to research, design, and plant a native garden. In order to do this most plants went in as juvenile and it is only now we have been able to take pleasure in this setting. It provides an escape in this isolation and is only a step out our back door.
Design insider’s guide:
Favourite local designers and studios?
Adriana Hanna: Internationally; Arquitectura G, Fala Atelier, Valerio Oligati, Studio Anne Holtrop, Formafantsama, Ilse Crawford and Pierre Yovanovitch.
Locally; Durbach Block Jaggers, Studio McQualter, Richards Stanisich, Vokes and Peters, Richards and Spence, Edition Office, YSG Studio, Flack Studio, Arent and Pyke, Neeson Murcutt + Nielle and Henry Wilson.
Favourite design stores?
Adriana Hanna: I’m sure to miss a few but a common thread is certainly second hand. Furniture and homewares; Smith St Bazaar, Nicholas and Alistair, Geoffrey Hatty, Nord Modern, Modern Times, Castorina and Co, Mr Kitly, Kazari, Criteria Collection, Studio ALM, Loom Rugs, Pepite, Craft Victoria, Pan After. And fashion; Kloke, Bruce, Lucy Folk, Goodbyes, Secondo, Bassike, Lee Mathews, Poepke and Shifting Worlds.
Favourite galleries or spaces?
Adriana Hanna: Heide Gallery is a short trip from home with uniquely curated exhibitions set within a native landscape in the iconic McGlashan Everest-designed home. It always makes for an ideal family outing with the kids.
Local galleries: Niagara Gallery, Nicholas Thompson, Daine Singer, Sophie Gannon, Sarah Scout, Olsen Gallery, James Makin Gallery, Lon Gallery, Station Gallery, Saint Cloche and Caves Gallery.
Where do you go to look at great design?
Adriana Hanna: Everywhere!