Type to search

30UNDER30’s Claire Oh on the way photography inspires her architectural designs

30UNDER30’s Claire Oh on the way photography inspires her architectural designs


Australian Design Review (ADR) recently revealed the 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World for 2023/2024. To celebrate, we are getting to know this exciting multidisciplinary cohort, the passions that drive their work and what makes them tick creatively.

BVN architectural graduate Claire Oh brings a unique perspective to her work shaped by a family legacy of female architects. Growing up surrounded by the stories of her grandmother, one of the first female architects in Korea, as well as being guided by her mother, Claire gained insight into the challenges women face in the field.

Motivated by these experiences, she views her work as part of a community of women navigating the architectural world together. Claire’s passion extends to sustainability, driving her to explore regenerative practices in architecture. Her commitment to reducing environmental impact led her to shift focus from traditional architecture to computational design, aiming to integrate more sustainable approaches into her work.

ADR: How did your love for architecture originate?

CO: My love for architecture came to me perhaps a little differently to others. Despite being surrounded by designers in my family, I never quite gravitated to it while growing up. In fact, my childhood dream was to become a tooth fairy. 

As I grew older, my curiosity about design began to manifest through fashion and photography. I began to scout and research exciting architecture that I would love to photograph and document. 

When I began to travel, a new level of fascination opened up. I became interested in the way different communities create their own spaces.  One day, it all clicked. I wanted to design spaces that inspire creativity, spaces that people will be excited to experience.

ADR: If you could work with any architect, designer, artist or other creative – living or dead – who would you work with and why?

CO: While being an avid photographer and image-maker, I have also always loved watching movies. I find it a surreal experience to immerse myself in different worlds. If I had the opportunity, I would love to work with Korean director, Bong Joon-ho. I grew up watching every movie and short film that he created. His emphasis on strong cultural and class themes led to a focus on placemaking throughout his works. It would be an amazing experience to see through his lens and discover how architecture can create such layered and intricate scenes and moments. I would also love to understand what aspects are important in portraying character and atmosphere while designing for a set.

ADR: Is there a particular project that you’ve worked on that has been the highlight of your career so far?

CO: While I have been on many unique and exceptional projects, one project that comes to mind would be Ross Street Teaching and Learning Hub for the University of Sydney. I joined the project from the very beginning which allowed for a deep immersion in the design process and concepts that were being developed. Ross Street had a key focus on designing with Country, working closely with the University’s Walanga Wingara Mura Designing with Country Principle. This inspired the design thinking for both the facade and planning. The scheme drew inspiration from the existing geology, Turpentine Ironbark Forest, Gadi plant and possum skin cloaks to create an adaptive and unique facade that responded to the context. It was an incredibly enriching learning experience for me as I took steps as a non-indigenous Australian to better understand Country.

ADR: How did it feel to make it into Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30?

CO: I have always been the type of person to always give things a go. If I am being completely transparent, I had little confidence that I would make 30UNDER30, but I was encouraged by my mentors and peers to go for it and believe and be proud of the achievements and goals that I have accomplished. It feels completely surreal to be able to celebrate this milestone with 29 other amazing people. I am excited to connect and establish new relationships and see how much I will grow.

Claire Oh presenting at a Parlour event. Photographer, Aimee Crouch

ADR: What drives your work and what do you hope to achieve in your architecture career?

CO: It is a dream of mine to contribute to change. Through my journey and career, I am passionate about raising awareness of the concerns surrounding gender equity in the built environment. It is a major goal of mine to create a supportive community for young women who are entering the industry. I hope that by taking small steps, such as developing and hosting events like The Vine, I can reciprocate the advice and mentorship that I have received from my family, who gave me the courage to pursue my goals, and also the amazing support of mentors I’ve had had at work. I would love to continue initiating and fostering ongoing relationships to create a community of support for young women in the industry.

ADR’s 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World stream is brought to you by major sponsor Neolith, alongside Miele, Interface and Tongue & Groove. The program is also supported by practice partners BVN, HDR INC, SJB, Richard Stanisich, Williams Burton Leopardi, and Billard Leece Partnership. To find out more about the final 30, including their places of work and discipline areas, head to the 30UNDER30 page.

All images supplied by Claire Oh. Photographer Victor Au unless otherwise stated.


You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *