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30UNDER30’s Leanne Haidar on the capacity of good design to support physical and mental wellbeing

30UNDER30’s Leanne Haidar on the capacity of good design to support physical and mental wellbeing


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.

SJB graduate of architecture Leanne Haidar pursued a career in architecture, inspired by the emphasis on community values inherent in the design process.  With a double degree in architecture and civil engineering from Monash University, Haidar believes strongly in the capacity of good design to provide infrastructure that supports the physical and mental wellbeing and safety of people from all walks of life. 

Leanne Haidar architectural graduate at SJB
ADR: How did your love for architecture originate?

LH: Spaces such as music festivals, concerts, art galleries and sporting arenas are places that make me feel inspired to express myself. These places have contributed to my love of the architectural profession. I also love going to my mum’s house for family get-togethers over dinner. It is one of my favourite places. It is truly havoc in a humble two-bedroom apartment when there are eight adults and three screaming toddlers sitting around a table that has been pushed over to the living room so that there is enough room for half of us to sit on mounds of pillows on the couch and others on dining chairs. Everyone speaks over one another because everyone is comfortable expressing themselves. These are the kind of spaces that I love and I want to create in my career. Spaces where people feel inspired, connected and comfortable in their skin. 

ADR: Do you have a preference for a particular style of architecture?

LH: I think the conversations around “architectural styles” can be unhelpful. You can tell when a project is responding well to the site and the brief because it doesn’t look like it could be built anywhere else. The fact that we have entire postcodes of cookie cutter homes getting built in Australian suburbs tells a sad story about our failure to make good architecture and planning accessible. I think “architectural styles” is a way to market to Australians a westernised and colonialist dream. In reality, it doesn’t actually hold much meaning. It gets in the way of the opportunity to provide Australians a better design outcome which is sustainable and allows their life to be lived in unique, diverse and meaningful ways.

ADR: What does sustainability mean for you?

LH: Sustainability shouldn’t be a design “add on” or “nice to have”. It’s integral to all aspects of design. Environmental, economic, social and cultural factors can all be considered when we think about sustainability. This includes using sustainable materials and building methods, considering intergenerational demands, accessibility and city shaping. It also embraces thinking about the way buildings perform over time, their ability to respond to climate, generate renewable resources, designing on Country and learning from First Nations principles of responding to place, landscape and the natural environment. Achieving these things can result in buildings that are better for our mental and physical health. It feels good to care for ourselves and nature, to be more sensitive and less destructive.

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

LH: Working on social housing projects has been a career highlight. Growing up in community housing myself, I understand the positive impact that good design can have and its ability to make people feel safe, that they belong, and have agency over their lives and their future. It was a big stepping stone in my family’s story and it makes me really happy to now have the chance to work on projects that can provide these opportunities for others.

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

LH: Super grateful and extremely excited to soak in everything I can when the 30UNDER30 get together at the retreat.

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.


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