TIME TO READ: 4m 30s
For centuries, architects have turned their pencil to designing products. Internationally acclaimed architects such as Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and Frank Gehry have all considered design on a smaller scale and pushed the boundaries of materiality and manufacturing.
In Australia, we’re also seeing a movement of architects exploring another creative discipline to test their skills and create a product that complements their medium.
Hannah Tribe, the founder of Tribe Studio, is one such architect that has recently delved into the world of product design. Launching a joint venture with metal fabricator Adam Corry, Hannah has shifted her focus onto the smaller pieces of the home forming the hardware collaboration BIT PART.
“In my architecture practice, we were finding that the bits and parts in a house that you touch were often crudely assembled and flimsy. If these ‘bits’ were beautifully designed often they were not well crafted and if beautifully crafted they were often not cleverly designed or to our taste,” says Hannah.
It just so happened at the same time Hannah was contemplating why all the door levers in the world were dropping, Adam and his wife were growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of beautiful and quality hardware.
After the pair shared their mutual disappointment of the existing hardware options, Hannah began sketching and Adam whipped up prototypes. “I have an idea of ‘why don’t we make a thing that looks like this’ and Adam has this wealth of experience with metalwork and engineering and moving parts and he works out how to make it better and make it work,” says Hannah.
BIT PART presents a collection of sustainable and beautiful hardware for the home. “The bits we are making are the accessories, the jewels of the house,” says Hannah. “We were noticing that the house was great [the outfit], the spaces were great and light filled and good to be in but the accessories were letting the whole outfit down.”
Designing a door handle, hook or leaver is no doubt an entirely different process than working with a client to create their dream home. However, Hannah says while they had no client or specific site, designing a product followed a similar journey. “We were designing to really specific briefs, solving very particular micro-problems of residential design.” As with her architecture work, Hannah thrives off collaborating with other designers. “The real treat of BIT PART is collaborating with Adam, who has a completely different skill set from mine and yet together we really enjoy making stuff.”
It’s not just architects that are moonlighting into other creative disciplines. Industrial designer by trade Shareen Joel, for many, is better known for her interior design work with homes featured in the pages of Vogue Living and Belle. However, over the years Shareen has moved across several industries forming a business with no creative boundaries – currently further extending her reach by completing an architecture degree.
“My first job straight out of uni was designing cars, which is obviously interior design, exterior design, industrial design…everything,” says Shareen. This holistic approach to design naturally lead Shareen to later study interior architecture and establish Shareen Joel Design.
Shareen’s passion for industrial design has extended throughout every discipline she crosses into. “My design ethos is classic design based on an industrial feel and not hiding the manufacturing process,” she says. Instead, Shareen opts to highlight the manufacturing process by avoiding the cladding of surfaces and embracing how each object is crafted.
“For me, it’s a lot about being true to how things are made,” says Shareen. “By doing that, they have a timeless quality about them.”
Navigating across all disciplines is immensely rewarding but it does have its challenges. “Every project of mine is bespoke,” says Shareen. “I make my job much harder for myself because I never reuse the same details. I reinvent every time, which means I have to think about how each individual component is made and detailed.” However, the additional time and energy required for bespoke design comes with its rewards. “When you see a space complete, it’s beautiful,” explains Shareen. “It’s like a piece of art or jewelry.”
Shareen agrees with Hannah that there is a movement for creatives to step outside their discipline, whether that’s to design product or spaces. However, “it’s a very limited market in Australia,” she says. “Our market is so small; you can’t have too many brands.”
Shareen chooses to produce limited edition products under her own name, Share Design, while she enjoys working under larger brands to create products on mass. “I love mass production for Australian brands like Sheridan, Ford and Lockwood,” she says.
For Hannah, BIT PART is more than just another brand creating doorknobs for the home. “Adam and I are looking ahead and we want to get other people to design products for us – we want to be the vehicle for realising great designs.” It’s their hope, BIT PART will help draw international attention to Australia’s commitment to quality design and sustainability.
“It is a really exciting time to be a designer. Technology is supporting experimentation in prototyping and design, and digital technology means it is much easier to bring ideas to the market than it ever has been before. I think we’ll see a lot of product design by architects, and I hope Bit Part can support them.”