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30UNDER30’s Nancy Beka wants to open up the design community to all


Australian Design Review (ADR) has 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.

Nancy Beka is a graduate of architecture, co-director of the Melbourne-based cross-disciplinary practice Studio Edwards and founder of the experimental design collective alt.material.

A self-described emotive designer, Beka approaches projects by emulating what it would be like to occupy a space from a client and visitor perspective. She is passionate about adaptive reuse and making design accessible to all, connecting people to each other and to design through exhibitions hosted by alt.material.

ADR: Where did your love for architecture originate?

NB: My love for design stems from my parents. My mum is a seamstress and my dad is a welder, so there was always a sense of craft happening around me. I was lucky enough to travel overseas with them as a child and gain an understanding of how other people occupy space and live.

Books furthered my interest in spatial design and travelling solo when I was in my 20s was also really inspiring. I knew I was inspired by art and design, but it wasn’t actually until a good friend’s suggestion that I considered architecture as a career. 

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

NB: I find myself drawn to the avant-garde realms of modernity, deconstructivism and brutalist architecture. These styles speak to me, embodying an ethos of bold experimentation and structural innovation.

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

NB: I think I’d love to work with SANAA, Zaha Hadid and Carlo Scarpa, but also Frank Gehry. I like his bold attitude and innovative designs. I recently visited the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and that was so elegant and gave me a new appreciation for him.

ADR: What does sustainability mean for you?

NB: Sustainability means consideration for not only the materiality used in the project and its sustainable properties, but – more importantly – it’s consideration for the longevity of a space we’re designing. Are there elements that can be relocated or reused? Can we repurpose a building rather than demolishing it? 

Sustainability means choosing materials wisely, thinking about how a space can evolve over time, and ensuring minimal waste by reusing and repurposing where possible – adaptive reuse and that kind of thinking.

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

NB: Our ‘Today Workplace’ has been the highlight so far, as it embodied all of Studio Edwards’ ethos and thoughts in one project. 

Thirty percent of building materials delivered to a construction site can end up as waste. Conversely, our project was a zero-waste fitout, designing elements to relate back to standard sheet sizes, to minimise cutting and wasting material on site.

Other elements included prefabricated, modular pieces that could be assembled on site by hand and easily dismantled at the end of the lease. 

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

NB: My dedication to giving the client the best result possible drives my work. I hope to design public buildings that can be visited and appreciated by people from all walks of life and create spaces that inspire and foster creativity. 

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

NB: I was really proud of myself. It feels like a huge milestone to celebrate all my hard work over the past few years. It’s not just an accolade; it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come and the exciting journey that lies ahead.

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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