- Article by Online Editor
Every week in our Q&ADR column, ADR interviews an architect, designer, object maker or industry person about who they are beyond the work – their life, inspiration, challenges and aspirations.
This week we meet Anna Breheny, the other new interior design director appointed at Gray Puksand’s Sydney office. Breheny has just moved to Australia and shares her passion for biophilic principles and how she always knew she wanted to be a designer.
ADR: Can you tell us about your background and how you have ended up working within the architecture and design industry?
Anna Breheny: My Mum has always been amazing at creating spaces that are not only aesthetically beautiful but also very warm, inviting and comfortable. She can transform any house into a home just by adding her personal creative touch. I caught the ‘design-bug’ from her at an early age and grew up always knowing that is what I wanted to do. After school on a Wednesday, I would call my friend Emma and we would go through the ‘Wentworth Courier’ over the phone and talk about what we would do if we owned certain properties and how we would transform each space.
What are the challenges and rewards of being an interior designer?
The biggest challenges are also the biggest rewards: Continuously coming up with new creative ideas that push the boundaries of contemporary design, creating big impacts on small budgets. The satisfaction and excitement that comes from completely transforming a space. And inventing a brand new space and seeing it become reality is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have – exciting, scary and thrilling all at the same time!
What would you say has been the biggest achievement in your career?
Creating successful teams, bringing people together and helping them to realise their strengths and how to utilise them as a group. Mentoring designers and supporting their career progression – encouraging them to be brave and to believe in themselves. I’m proud to have become a director of one of London’s top 10 international design firms and bring that experience to Australia and Gray Puksand.
What do you think characterises Australian design?
Open-minded, brave and unrestricted by space, history or tradition.
Who/what/where are you inspired by? What architects or designers have influenced your work?
I find inspiration in everything I experience: Travel, art, culture, cuisine, fashion. Even when we are not aware of it, all of these elements influence us as a person and have an impact on our style and creativity in all that we do. I have had various mentors throughout my career who have inspired me and pushed me to develop as a designer and as a leader. This started with my art teachers at school and hopefully will continue until I hang up my boots. The best part of the creative process is that it never stops evolving, and hopefully neither will I.
I am extremely passionate about spatial psychology and designing for wellness. This is at the core of every design project we undertake. One of my favourite spaces in the world encapsulates both of these initiatives. London’s King’s Cross Pond is a new art installation in the form of a natural bathing pond, right in the middle of the King’s Cross development site. The 40 metre long pond enables the public to actually ‘bathe in art’. It is a beautiful example of biophilic design, and powerfully promotes health and wellbeing even in one of the largest urban environments in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities. I love being in that space. It’s like taking a deep breath and pressing pause on the hustle and bustle of central London. While you can sense all the activity around you, this is a tranquil transition space that is so powerful that you physically escape when you are in it.
What place or space in Australia do you wish you had designed?
It’s the transitional spaces that I truly love. The ‘in-between’ spaces that become our journey between the home – work – social spaces. Changing your mindset to suit each of these environments is just as important as the destination itself. This is evident in the growing trend towards end-of-trip facilities and wellness centres in the workplace. Landlords are now willing to give up premium retail spaces and create these laneways and market spaces within the building in order to attract the right tenants by providing communal transitional spaces.
When I am going to meetings I often walk through Angel Place in Sydney which runs adjacent to the China Lane restaurant. Birdcages of all shapes and sizes fill the skyline above the laneway, as you walk beneath them you can hear different birds chirping and singing in the background. It is such a simple idea but so effective. It dramatically affects your mood when you walk through it and provides a holistic experience rather than just a short-cut through the city.
Behind our office, we have a small Mews that leads to two very private bars, which we refer to as our extended meeting rooms. The lane itself is covered in noisy mechanical ducts, which are all over-shadowed by high-rise buildings. However, sitting on a rickety stool in the middle of all this industry, nursing a cold glass of wine, and chatting with colleagues/clients at the end of the day can be the most relaxing part of the week. It’s never just the architecture or the design that makes a space, it’s everything that fills it – the people, the behaviour, the atmosphere. The psychology of the space can make it or break it!
What is your pain point with the Australian design/construction industry?
Not being fully engaged for the life of a project can result in an under-cooked design solution that does not realise its full potential. Also, not being allowed the appropriate time-scales to properly develop, detail and document a project can be very frustrating because again it limits the design from meeting its full potential.
What do you think are key issues for designers over the next decade?
Keeping ahead of technology and designing for an ever-changing and unknown future.
Lead image by Robert Walsh.
Last week we met Gray Puksand’s Brisbane interior design director, Maria Correia.