We’re all about story. Whether WOWOWA is working on a private home or a community hub, we want to listen to the stories of the people who are going to use our spaces and try to honour and spatialise them. I think that that’s what makes us different as an architectural practice. We’re very collaborative, inclusive and human-centric. We design for the human experience, for the small moments of delight in various little pockets of the spaces that we create.
We start a project by listening – chatting to the family about colours they’re drawn to, artworks they have or love, favourite gifts they’ve received or memories that speak to them. We invite them to show us who they are. It’s kind of crazy, really, but clients come to us now because we have a reputation for loving this deep dive. When you’re invited to be personal, I think it opens you up to be more creative. It’s an opportunity to engage with your inner child and what makes you and your family happy.
We specialise in really yummy, colourful, playful renovations and new homes for families. Off the back of COVID we’ve moved into being doing a lot of community projects and education work. We very much see ourselves as bridging the divide between being an art practice and being an established 12-year-old architecture studio.
We get a lot of enjoyment out of shared cultural references and images of the past. We did a yellow bench top that looked like a melted banana Paddle Pop. I think those kinds of nostalgia hinting to something lost really connects with people. They remind people that life’s too short for boring spaces.
The other thing we talk about when we begin a project is legacy. We only do projects that people are going to live in for a minimum of seven years. We’re not interested in flipping houses. By framing a renovation in terms of legacy, it helps your client think about their role as a custodian. This rationalises decisions around quality and sustainable technologies.
I guess every idealistic architect thinks they can make the world a better place through architecture. When we started out in 2010, one of our mottos was to create the practice we wished we worked at. When I was a student, there was a lot of eco design and that had a very particular aesthetic. I wanted to push the boundaries on being sustainable and using locally sourced materials and do all that good stuff, while also having a different aesthetic. I wanted to show that you could make something sustainable that still looked sexy . If you’re choosing a sustainable material, you could still choose one that happened to be a fun colour.
What is it like to work for us? It means eating too many snacks! So much connection happens while breaking bread. We’re very purpose-driven and collectively minded. We do a lot of team activities and we have a lot of flexibility and try to make the experience of working in our practice just as sustainable as any project. Our team is mostly women and we’ve tried to create a safe space for everyone to have agency and autonomy and a growth mindset.
Because we’re always dancing that line between trying to create something extraordinary and trying to create something that stands up, we invite a level of emotionality. Emotions can sometimes be hard, especially when you’re trying to do hard things. So we make sure we’re always coming together and staying connected as much as possible. I think any successful business thrives on collective achievements. It takes so long to complete a project, but it really does feel like a celebration each time because of all the collective hard work.
Being a B-Corp has become part of our identity. It took us a year to get certified, but I feel it really is a signifier of the values that we hold within the practice. It’s just part of who we are. When we were certified, we were half the size we are now. We’ve used the B-Corp principles as a roadmap to becoming a larger scale business faster and that’s meant those principles are now embedded in our DNA.