IDEA is now open for entries until 18 June. Enter now!
Sue Fenton has over 20 years of interior design leadership experience, spanning across all sectors of the Woods Bagot Global Studio. Although based in the Melbourne Studio, her expertise has led to projects in Sydney, Perth, New York, London, and Doha.
Fenton’s insights shed light on the evolving sensibilities and trends that shape the design industry.
When asked to share some personal highlights of her career, Fenton expresses deep gratitude.
“I am so privileged to have enjoyed all of my 30 years of practice. I began in fine art and sculpture before transitioning to interior design over 20 years ago,” she says.
Reflecting on her journey, she emphasises the joy of collaborating with incredibly talented and passionate individuals throughout her career.
Fenton’s recent projects are a testament to her design philosophy and sensibility. Discussing a bespoke interior project at 101 Collins Street, Melbourne, she explains, “We designed around the concept of investment in beautiful and enduring materials, furniture pieces, and artwork as a way of elevating the value, quality, and longevity of quality design.”
By focusing on heirlooms rather than fleeting trends, Fenton aimed to create a sustainable framework that transcends the passage of time.
Recalling her involvement in career defining projects, Fenton says, “I had a magic work trip to the New York studio to design the top two floors of the Walter Gropius building on Central Station.”
Other notable contributions include Younghusband Woolstores in Kensington – an adaptive reuse project – the 80 Collins Street precinct, Sculptform showroom and the Rolex Melbourne HQ. All positively impacted the look and feel of the city through stunning design.
What makes projects like the Younghusband Woolstores so special is that they are built around the philosophy of re-use.
“The strategy is to carefully edit existing buildings, adopting a sustainable and inclusive framework while retaining the rich patina and markings of the past,” explains Fenton.
“I have worked with and learned from so many wonderful and inspiring people on amazing projects, from the small – designing a furniture range workshopped with Patricia Urquiola – to the epic: the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre.”
Discussing the challenges and opportunities in the Australian design industry, Fenton highlights the positive shift toward collaborating with First Nations People.
“It feels like there is finally a strong focus on early engagement with First Nations People on every project – a long overdue but welcome change,” she says.
She also reflects on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to supply shortages and extended delivery periods. But Fenton saw this as an opportunity, rather than a hindrance, for the design industry.
“What began as a disruption produced an opportunity to generate more detailed exploration, to support local industries, collaborating with local makers and revealing unexpected materials that are unique to each project,” says Fenton.
Recognising the significance of awards programs like IDEA, Fenton emphasises their role in celebrating exceptional projects and fostering a sense of community within the design industry.
“Awards programs like IDEA are an opportunity to stop and relish all the excellent projects from across the discipline, and to celebrate our colleagues, clients, and the broader design community,” she says.
As a judge for IDEA 2023, Fenton eagerly awaits the unveiling of the shortlisted projects.
“I will be looking for projects that extend our understanding of design: projects that are making a positive impact by supporting people, incorporating an innovative and sustainable use of materials,” she says.
Looking ahead, Fenton predicts that IDEA 2023 will feature a recalibrated focus post-pandemic, which will inspire designers to curate more considered and carefully crafted design outcomes that support diverse communities.
“I suspect this year will have a strong focus on sustainability and Indigenous engagement, and a strong consideration for how best to promote and support communities, whether it be cultural, workplace, education, health, or residential,” says Fenton.
As IDEA 2023 approaches, Sue Fenton’s expertise and vision will contribute to the celebration of design excellence and inspire the future of Australian design. With her insightful perspectives, she reminds us of the transformative power of design and its ability to shape the world we inhabit.
“I’m excited and honored to be judging projects this year and can’t wait to see what everyone has been working on,” says Fenton.
Don’t miss out, enter today, head to the IDEA website and submit your entries.