- Article by Charlotte Huston
The Sue Carr Award is dedicated to third-year architecture and interior design students who can demonstrate excellent academic achievement. Today, the most recent recipient, Natasha Veri, shares what it meant to win, her future plans, and how her design philosophy is always a “work in progress”.
Announced at the INDEX exhibition opening night in early December last year, the RMIT Sue Carr Award was presented to Veri, who is a third-year interior design student at RMIT University.
After completing some questions online, Veri was invited along with other shortlisted students to interview at Carr. As part of her win, she is currently undertaking work placement experience at the Melbourne-based multidisciplinary studio.
The studio commended Veri for her academic and creative achievements, as well as her “alignment with Carr’s philosophy of timeless design”.
“Her understanding of space, form, light and materiality came in the form of a futuristic retail space where robots can purchase human emotions and behaviours; to a Steiner kindergarten with play areas designed for children to learn through curiosity,” cites the studio.
Finding time between her final year of study and her first week at Carr, the 22-year-old chats with ADR about her interior design journey so far.
ADR: Firstly, congratulations! Can you tell us about yourself and how you discovered your love for design?
Natasha Veri: Thank you!
I have a natural affinity for design and I’ve been interested in it since I was a child. I was drawing pictures in kindergarten before playing with toys, so I’ve always been artistic and creative.
My love for interior design specifically, stemmed from working alongside my dad as he’s a builder. I was exposed to that realm, and it’s allowed me the opportunity to delve into interiors and architecture – it’s been really fun!
I started studying for a Bachelor of Interior Design (Honours) at RMIT in 2020, which I will complete by the end of the year.
How has your academic journey been so far?
NV: It’s been quite turbulent. Initially, it was a bit tricky to get the hang of balancing university as well as work life and social life. I think I had my priorities all over the place, but as I continued through uni I developed a stronger interest in interior design. That made uni work more of a priority for me and I’ve really enjoyed it.
I guess my downtime is also partially my university time because I was enjoying researching and exploring.
How’s your first week at Carr been?
NV: I’ve learnt a lot more about the technical side of interior design. My course is quite conceptual and I’ve experienced a lot in this professional practice. It’s the first time I’ve worked with budgets and design jargon – it’s been a lot to digest. However, learning on the job is probably the best way to gain technical experience.
In a conversation with Carr CEO Nick Carr, we discussed the importance of values taught through universities such as conceptuality, creativity and diversity; ultimately making us more employable and greater designers.
On to the Sue Carr Award, what does it entail?
NV: My third-year level coordinator, Dr Phoebe Whitman, reached out to me about my studio work and encouraged me to apply for the Sue Carr Award.
It was the first time I was ever asked to apply for anything and I thought, ‘Why not? I’ll give it a try – there’s nothing to lose’. After I applied, five people were selected to sit for an interview with Carr to discuss our work and who we are as designers. From there, they picked a winner, which happened to be me.
How did it feel to win?
NV: Honestly, I was in so much shock when I found out. It was the first time I felt assured that you can achieve anything. You really should believe in yourself and be confident about the work you produce. Sometimes, I’m hard on myself and it was great to get that approval and recognition.
Also, I feel like this award has really kickstarted my career and introduced me to interior design on a professional scale. I feel really excited about what’s next.
You were judged on your winning portfolio, not just a winning project. Is that correct?
NV: Yes, I showcased work from year two onwards. The specific project that my teacher encouraged was ‘Balenciaga Made Me Do It’.
This project was the first time I ever got to explore who I am as a designer, as well as my own identity, and my own values. I had a lot of fun with that project and it showed through my work.
Do you feel you are developing your own design sensibility or is it still a work in progress?
NV: I think it’s a work in progress and even when I feel like I’m there, I know there’s always something else to learn. Knowledge is always developing and ever-growing.
What do you hope to achieve this year?
NV: I’d love to keep working at Carr after my placement. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a true passion and interest in my job. Of course, I’d like to do well with uni and maybe come out with another award, who knows? The sky’s the limit!
Who or what are some of your inspirations?
NV: I look to modernist architects like Robin Boyd. He was at the forefront of Australian architecture and pioneered the country into a different era. I liked that new way to critically assess a home and what’s vital to building that bridge between people and architecture.
Plus, I’m also interested in his exploration of the Australian landscape. It’s about establishing the dialogue between the interior and exterior and blurring that threshold between the two.
And whilst that’s happening, I like to experiment with daring textures, materiality, and colours. It’s how I come to my resolutions – I start with someone/something I’m interested in, take inspiration and develop my own ideas.
It’s important to remember architecture and interior design can’t exist without each other. For architecture to be fully digested, the interior has to be powerful and strong.
Lastly, as an emerging designer, what do you hope to see for the future of the design industry in Australia?
NV: Much like the Modernists, I’d like to see Australia shift towards a movement of longevity and functionality. Currently, there seems to be a prominence of mass-produced and prefabricated homes, which in my opinion has created an impersonal and ephemeral design regression.
You may think it’s controversial, however, I believe it’s our responsibility as young designers to restore the once-loved values of Australian architecture and facilitate a shift much like Robin Boyd and other designers of his time did. I’d love for the future of design to emphasise empathetic homes that are not only affordable to all but also functional and personal by adapting to the constant flux of its inhabitants.
Renders by Natasha Veri.
In December last year, IDEA 2022 Residential Multi winner Carr chatted to ADR about its winning project, and what’s next for the studio.
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