Exhibition of student works explores social impact of architecture

27 April 2023
Design for good
The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning welcomes a new exhibition to The Hearth this week. The result of a collaboration between the School, Adjacency Studio, and Hobart Women’s Shelter, Tapestry features students’ efforts to design affordable long-term accommodation for women and children at risk of homelessness.

Tapestry showcases works produced by two cohorts of second-year Bachelor of Design in Architecture students during Studio 2B, Let Every Voice Be Heard. Following two iterations of the studio in 2021 and 2022, teaching colleagues and Adjacency Studio founders Justine Anderson, Tara Sydney and Caitlin Condon, were inspired to share their student’s clever and empathetic work with a wider audience.

The studio brief challenged students to deliver practical solutions while navigating the human impact of their designs. The students worked with Hobart Women’s Shelter representatives to understand the complex social and cultural context of affordable housing in Hobart, gaining valuable experience working with a real-world client.

“This studio explicitly changes their role as designers from the creative director of their own free will, to having to engage with the complex needs of our client Hobart Women's Shelter, and because the project feels real to them, we see such detailed care in all of their decision making,” explains Anderson.

The works featured reflect students’ creativity, empathy, and maturity in dealing with a complex and nuanced social and cultural context. Tapestry is not only a celebration of students’ hard work and creativity, but also an opportunity for the public to understand the role of architecture in addressing societal issues.

“The work produced by our students truly astounded us - they were able to pragmatically resolve a complex brief while building into their designs moments for poetry, delight and joy,” remarks Sydney.

“Architectural projects like these with a focus on the social impact of architecture can develop a greater awareness, sensitivity, and responsibility towards creating equitable environments,” she adds.

The growth that we have seen in this cohort, not only as designers, but as agents of social good has been inspiring
Tara Sydney

As graduates of the School, the experience of teaching Studio 2B has been incredibly rewarding for Anderson, Sydney, and Condon. 

“It feels like a great privilege to be able to pass on what I have learnt to the next generation, and I am continually inspired by my students and their creativity and enthusiasm to make the world a better place,” reflects Sydney.

The trio's passion for architecture and commitment to social justice has driven them to create positive change through their work, both inside and outside the classroom. Since meeting while teaching Studio 2B, the three have gone on to form Adjacency Studio, an alternative model of practice that will see the trio collectively practise design, teaching, and research with a focus on social justice in architecture.

“In our practice as architects and advocates we feel a deep responsibility to care for people and our environment and hope this carries through all our work,” says Anderson, who was recently awarded the 2022 Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship for a project exploring trauma-informed design practices for prisons and alternative solutions to incarceration.

Adjacency Studio has successfully submitted three contributions to the 2023 Venice Biennale Australian Pavilion, “Unsettling Queenstown”, which explores tactics for the decolonisation of architecture in practice, teaching, and research.

“Each of these tactics speaks to ways in which we attempt to move away from accepted colonial hierarchies in the content that we teach, but also the way that we teach it,” explains Sydney.

The trio’s passion for social justice has fed into their teaching of Studio 2B. By teaching with a focus on equity, the three hope to inspire the next generation of designers to become agents of social change. This is reflected by the works in Tapestry, with students embracing a human-first mindset in their work.

“I think that how we teach and the framework of values we establish in the culture within our studio can proliferate into promoting a more equitable profession overall and so the benefits of teaching can work towards a better model of practice,” says Anderson.

Visit Tapestry in the Wilkinson Buiding (G04) from 27 April to 12 May 2023.

Visit the exhbition

Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning

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