Sibling Architecture advocates a more inclusive approach to spatial design

SYDNEY – Sibling Architecture is a collaborative practice with five directors – Amelia Borg, Nicholas Braun, Jane Caught, Timothy Moore and Qianyi Lim – and offices in Sydney and Melbourne. We speak to Moore, Lim and Borg about Sibling’s vision and its efforts to create environments that ‘make people’s lives better.’

Your practice covers a diverse range of projects, from civic buildings and residential units to exhibition design. With five directors, how does Sibling work on a practical level? Does each of you have a speciality?
QIANYI LIM: No. We possess different qualities, so our collective knowledge feeds into different typologies. When we start a new project, we all sit around the table developing concepts and adding input. I think that’s our strength.
TIMOTHY MOORE: What’s important, and why you see a diversity of projects, is the result of five people following their individual desires. It has the potential to feed back into our work in unexpected ways.

You recently received a pretty sizable grant from the Creators Fund in Victoria to investigate age-friendly cities. This is obviously a huge topic. How are you tackling the necessary research?
TM: When we start a project, we like to do as much design research as possible. It’s often difficult to make architecture that’s dominated by the market, leaving you with no time or money for speculative research. The Creators Fund allows recipients to speculate on a problem. We don’t want to rush into it. We’re using public programming as a way to generate knowledge. We’re not experts, but we’re getting smarter by speaking to people who already have the knowledge we need.

Architects make buildings, but everyone together produces architecture

Why did you choose to work specifically with the issues facing elderly urban dwellers and not, for example, accessibility in general?
TM: I guess we’re looking for ways to frame the conversation. We think of the project as a lens that will let us unlock questions that apply to everyone, not just older people. We’re driven by the fact that it won’t be long before a certain percentage of the population will be ‘elderly’. It’s about more than adapting the city spatially; it’s also about affordability. There’s so much diversity within groups of seniors. Even in the case of a couple, one person might have access issues while the other doesn’t. Using a conceptual lens gives us more leverage, not to mention a much broader look at conversations pertaining to equity, justice and inclusivity.
QL: On a personal level, our parents and their generation are entering this realm, so the project is related to our own experiences.
TM: We’re thinking about ourselves as well. The future we have to look forward to doesn’t resemble the current lives of our parents, who have assets, own their homes and collect superannuation. They’re not part of the gig economy. Those benefits won’t exist for us. We have to consider our own future and design for our own tomorrow. Maybe our solutions will work for everyone.

Besides residential projects, your portfolio includes retail spaces. How do you see retail interiors changing?
AMELIA BORG: Online shopping gives people access to products and services all over the world, right at their fingertips. More and more people are shopping as part of their everyday social experiences on Facebook and Instagram. Rather than going to physical stores, they rely on algorithms to pick, purchase and deliver. This means that retail outlets on the high street need to do more than just present and sell products. They have to be experiences in themselves.

Do you feel that members of the greater public are developing an understanding of the possibilities of design and architecture that goes beyond the surface level?
TM: I think people are always interested in design. They may not know it, but everyone is interested in housing prices and transport. It’s about how you frame the conversation. Architects make buildings, but everyone together produces architecture. We try to have a conversation with our projects – not always about how a building is constructed, but definitely about the element of participation. We’re interested in bringing people together – ordinary people who make architecture – in a discussion that is more helpful to the advancement of design than a conversation among architects.

This is an excerpt of a piece featured on St-W 125. To read the full Q&A, which discusses the millennial point of view and retail projects such as Dot Comme Collection, .

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