This week for Q&ADR we speak to Simone Oliver–principal at Fender Katsalidis’ Sydney practice–about inspiration, goals and the magic of Uluru.
Australian Design Review: What inspires you?
Simone Oliver: That’s easy – Japan and everything in it. Think Tadao Ando, Rei Kawakubo, Yoji Yamoto, Issey Miyake, Yayoi Kusama, Geisha, bento boxes, precision knives, Shinkansen, teahouses, karaoke, impeccable landscapes, bonsai, transformational retail, seasons that are celebrated and perfectionism in food, service, and experience. I travel to Japan as much as I can, and each time feel every sense has been nourished.
Outside of work?
SO: Free time is precious to me and most of that is spent with my family – the best times we have are generally in nature. I try to bring art into my life every week, so a lot of time is also spent at galleries, cultural events, with music and making stuff with my kids.
SO: There are very divergent reasons around why some projects are more important to me than others. Projects such as Westpac’s head office on Kent Street was a milestone because of its sheer size and complexity. At 80,000sqm housing 7,000 people, it was akin to designing a small township and lead to a whole pathway of new projects in a typology such as education. More recently, projects that have a social impact or have surrounded those who, in my view, make the world a better place, have been very important. These have ranged from a small office fit-out for The George Institute whose people comprise some of the world’s leading academics in research in world health. Their research influences government policy worldwide and impacts the health of millions of people. Working with some of Australia’s top-tier universities (six of the Group of Eight) in instigating fundamental changes around how students think, behave and learn through pioneering new typologies in pedagogy and learning space design have been important. Working on the first premium lounge for Qantas at Brisbane international airport was an important project in that it represents one of our greatest and most iconic Australian brands as communicated through quality customer experience in an inspiring environment.
SO: Probably every parent says having their first child was a defining moment in their life. For me, parenthood meant giving away a lot of egocentric ‘designer stuff’ that had previously given me a degree of purpose and personal identity – and made me a more creative, empathetic and human-centric designer. I have always encouraged my team to dump the sometimes-pretentious expectations that surround you as a designer, to take time to find and accept their authentic abilities and to play to their strengths.
SO: Uluru is by the far my favourite place. Its awesomeness, its stark dominance in a startling and silent landscape, its deep cultural significance to its indigenous community and its ever-changing and undulating beauty is unrivalled. I also love the pool at Freshwater Beach – where else in the world does exercise become so magical?
SO: Seeing our design graduates do well in their careers. I am so genuinely proud of their achievements, always. I also recently took part in a speaking engagement at UNSW, which represented female leadership in the architectural industry. I am very proud of the role I have at this stage of my career to inspire, mentor and encourage other women in our industry to participate in leadership roles in what remains an emerging industry in terms of achieving gender diversity.
What are you working on right now and what are your goals for the future?
SO: Right now, I am working in a strategic capacity with a regional university to assist them to evolve their learning space programme into a world-class offering for present and future students. I am also developing a wellness environment for a CBD commercial development, which seeks to offer a high quality and diverse amenity to its residents.
I am working with the leadership of FK (Fender Katsalidis) to develop its world-class interiors team and to enhance its reputation for inspiring, beautiful and functional design, as we diversify FK’s work into the commercial sector. I am looking forward to the journey ahead in growing both our Sydney office with the leadership there and representing our interior design professionals practice-wide.