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Get to know the work of Home of the Year 2018 judge Mel Bright

Article by Home Magazine

Meet Mel Bright; HOME New Zealand’s international judge for Home of the Year 2018. Bright speaks in Wellington on February 13 and Auckland on February 15 for our Home of the Year 2018 lectures, brought to you by Altherm Window Systems. Here, she discusses her work and how green spaces are driving her projects. 

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Get to know the work of Home of the Year 2018 judge Mel Bright

Mel Bright, our international judge for Home of the Year 2018, discusses how the work of her Melbourne practice is taking on landscape-driven projects, and how each aims to contribute to its environment through relationship to site.

What’s on the drawing board at MAKE Architecture?
Lots of houses and renovations to heritage houses in inner-city Melbourne, and a special home on the New South Wales coast. There are some very special projects that really push our interests in landscape and architecture – urban forests, roof-top gardens, making use of the whole site and thinking about design beyond the walls of the buildings. We also have a number of larger-scale multi-residential and education projects. We’ve enjoyed seeing the thinking and testing that has happened in our houses come through at a larger scale. Also, we’ve just finished our new studio and the team is really enjoying our beautiful new space.

What’s driving your practice at the moment?
There’s currently a huge focus on landscape-driven projects. We began by thinking about how the suburban dream of the backyard can be re-thought in the contemporary city, where space is minimal and population densities are increasing. Our projects invert the traditional architecture landscape relationship and ask, ‘How can landscape and green space actually drive the project?’ In many cases, this might even include co-opting and exchanging with the public neighbouring conditions and outdoor spaces that bump up against our work. We also re-branded MAKE a few years ago and this was a great exercise to go through – a key thing is that it shouldn’t be about style. Our projects may all look different but they are grounded in ideas: we want them to do something and contribute.

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How has Melbourne affected your work?
Melbourne has a huge number of brick houses and buildings, which has certainly influenced us. We also work within the constraints of heritage overlays and planning regulations – this has inspired many double skins and textured screens. One of my favourite things about working as an architect in Melbourne is the group of wonderfully skilled architects that we are surrounded by – it’s such a supportive and collegiate design community.

Did you set out to do so many renovations?
Not really, but when starting a small practice you have to take every opportunity you can get. Luckily I love doing them – I love trying to unpick the existing house and we find the existing heritage really inspires our response. The tougher the constraints, sometimes the more interesting the project.

We love that so many of your projects have a public aspect. Tell us about that.
We think that even the smallest projects have an opportunity to give something back to make a larger contribution to the city or suburb – architecture doesn’t stop at the building, it spills out into the public space and street. We care about the curb edge and the drain. In a situation where space is compressed, you have to care about everything. Our practice is about designing the whole site, and so the relationship of the property to the street is also important and something we talk about a lot. In this way, we treat the small house like a public project, with each one able to make a contribution to the city and the suburb and have a role in activating the laneways and streets.

See more of Mel’s work here: Make Architecture

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