Rodney Eggleston and Anne-Laure Cavigneaux of March Studio in their North Melbourne office. Photo – Sean Fennessy.

The North Melbourne offices of March Studio. Photo - Sean Fennessy.

Rodney shows us some current projects.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

The North Melbourne offices of March Studio. Photo - Sean Fennessy.

Rodney Eggleston & Anne-Laure Cavigneaux are partners in life and in business.  Together they run March Studio, a multidisciplinary design and architecture studio in North Melbourne.  Rodney heads up the architectural projects, whilst Anne-Laure’s background in graphic design sees her drive the studio’s branding and communications projects, as well as lending her skills to many of the studio’s retail and hospitality clients.  Between them, supported by a tight-knit team of staff, the pair have amassed a impressive portfolio of design projects in just five years since first launching their practice.  AND, before I go on, I feel compelled to let you know that Rodney and Anne-Laure were born in 1981 and 1980 respectively.

Oh LORD.  It’s exhausting isn’t it!?

Rodney and Anne-Laure are, clearly, an incredibly talented, ambitious, and formidable creative team.  Despite their youth, this hard working pair run a seriously tight ship.  Since launching their studio in 2007, they have undertaken and fastidiously executed a great number of design projects including fit-outs for twelve Aesop stores nationally and internationally, and various hospitality and residential projects on home soil (including their own amazing city apartment, which we recently featured here!).

March Studio’s work is characterised by a meticulous attention to detail, and often an innately creative, though very pragmatic approach to problem solving.  Their work for Aesop, in particular, has a long history of material efficiency, often using surplus packaging or recycled materials en masse to stunning effect.  As Aesop has expanded internationally, March has been invited to work on their stores in Zurich, Paris and New York, and Eggleston has become adept at designing fittings and fixtures which efficiently minimise shipping and handling – considering cabinetry size and shape in relation to the limitations of transport palettes and install logistics.  Efficient design at its best.

I’m constantly in awe of the incredible breadth of creative talent in Australia, and March Studio are just another example of truly world class design, based right here in Melbourne. Big thanks to Rodney and Anne-Laure for turning this interview around in record time, and sharing their incredible work with us today!

Tell us a little about your backgrounds – Rodney – did you always want to be an architect?

RE – Going back a few generations my family have always been a creative bunch. My great grandfather, Alec Eggleston, founded Eggleston MacDonald and Secomb, (now Design Inc.). My grandfather on my mother’s side, Roy Hodgkinson, was a war artist and later an illustrator for the Sun Herald. My father was a industrial designer / draftsman and my mother a fashion designer who’s career highlight was making a pair of jeans for Lou Reed. Going a creative route was in the blood, so less about ‘wanting’ and more about ‘falling’ into being an architect.

What path led you to setting up your own firm?

RE – As students at RMIT a group of us started a small studio called DireTribe. Initially we wanted the studio space simply so that we didn’t have to work long nights in isolation. The drinking and plotting soon took over the university work, however, and we started creating our own projects. Amongst the many projects were exhibitions, magazines, and the design of Section 08 Container Bar in the city. At the end of DireTribe everyone went their separate ways, some to bigger offices, some overseas. Anne-Laure and I stayed in Melbourne and kept doing what we were doing at DireTribe, but under a new name and in a new space.

And Anne Laure – what career path led to launching March Studio with Rodney?

ALC – We were both working in Rotterdam when we met. Rodney was working at the OMA and I for a small graphic agency called Animaux. We shared the same ambition to start a studio that would approach architecture, graphic, and all design with the same formula; to have no formula! Our career grew naturally and simply from being young and with friends, from ‘doing stuff’, into quite seamlessly a professional studio. We still have and value the same friends and collaborators, keeping on the same track where ideas unfold to ensure our curiosity is well-alert!

Anne-Laure’s ‘crazy box room’ at March Studio. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Your work is well known in Melbourne – I especially LOVE your amazing Baker D Chirico fit out in Carlton! What have been some of your favourite projects for March Studio in recent years?

That’s a tough question Lucy, as the diversity of each project makes it difficult to pick favourites. Each and every project is a labour of love for us. Baker D Chircio is a great example of a project that was given the best chance to exist in the way we imagined it. This is mainly to do with the client, and partly Fabio Ongarato Design, who tackled the re-branding at the same time as we designed the interior.  Both were willing to be adventurous, and completely trusted our direction with the store design. We can get the people into the store, but Daniel keeps them coming back with his great produce – and for us this is really the key.

Baker D. Chirico in Carlton, interior design by March Studio.  Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Baker D. Chirico in Carlton, interior design by March Studio.  Photo – Peter Bennetts.

When it comes to choosing favourite projects, we like to look at the projects where boundaries have been pushed. Life becomes tedious when things becomes second nature and repetitive, and so we are often looking forward to something new for inspiration. Good projects are the ones that teach us something different and new, because it is this learning that keeps us motivated and rolling up into the studio each day. Rather than listing favourite projects, so to speak, I’ve listed a few recent projects we feel we learnt the most from.

1. Westfield Stores for Aesop in Sydney

Aesop Westfield Bondi designed by March Studio.  Photo – Rodney Eggleston.

In 2011 we realised two stores for Aesop in Sydney. We treated the two stores as one, which strangely went against the tide for Aesop and for us!  However that said, the two stores relied on each other to exist. The concept was to link the two stores via security cameras, the CCTV feed is then projected back into the sister store via LED screens. The projects gave us the opportunity to play in virtual space and to comment on the interconnectivity of our current world.

2. Chessell Group

The Chessell Group offices South Melbourne, designed by March Studio.  Photo – Mark Ashkanasy.

The Chessell Group offices South Melbourne, designed by March Studio.  Photo – Mark Ashkanasy.

For the finance company known as ‘The Chessell Group’ we became obsessed by a simple idea to make the whole space from one material. LVL timber beams are renewable and a cost effective material, and became the material of choice for their ability to span long distances but also act as a beautiful finished surface once sanded back. And despite the digital era or a ‘paperless’ world, the finance company still requires massive storage space to track and maintain their clients paper trail. As a result, the project melded the material logic with the necessity of the storage to envelope the space, however this did not come without challenges. Building a project from one end to the other, which was the only way we could achieve the interlocking construction certainly had its moments!

3. Aesop Paris – Merci

Aesop in Merci, Paris.  Photo – Louis.

Actually we adore this project. Merci Aesop was a continuation of ideas formed in the Flinders Lane Aesop store, of creating an interior entirely out of the cardboard shipping boxes that the product is distributed worldwide in. However unlike the Flinders Lane store, which was constructed over 1 week of crafting cardboard by hand, this project had to be built in one night!!!  The simple logic of hoisting the entire store behind one large net meant that we could fabricate the space quickly and efficiently. Parisian students folded boxes through the night whilst we jammed them in! Although we thought we had a very simple logic and it had been tested on the computer, the project presented more than enough unexpected surprises!  What ended up was nothing like what was originally conceived – except better!

4. Brent Knoll

Brent Knoll house, rural Victoria, designed by March Studio. Photos – John Gollings.

Brent Knoll house, rural Victoria, designed by March Studio. Photos – John Gollings.

Our first major project is and will always be the pick of the bunch. Not only was the learning curve extreme on this project, but it illustrates the faith that can be put into a fledging architecture practice by client and builder. The results of taking this risk can produce great results, and we are indebted to the people involved in this project for kick starting our studio with this wonderful project.

Can you give us a little insight into the inner working of your studio?

Traditionally, architecture offices like to name their company directly after themselves. We didn’t want to do that – it seems misrepresentative to the whole bunch of people who contribute to what is an incredibly complex and hard industry. For a great project to exist in the design world, the whole studio needs to be moving in the same direction, not just following one Messiah. Members of design offices like ours need to feel involved from start to finish, need to feel responsibility and the joy of accomplishment. As a result, we put a lot of responsibility on our colleagues because we believe that it is important that all members have an insight into each aspect of the process.

The North Melbourne offices of March Studio. Photo - Sean Fennessy.

The North Melbourne offices of March Studio. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Aside from running a busy practise, you’re also new parents! What is your secret for working together successfully as a husband and wife team, and maintaining that elusive work life / home life balance?

Being young parents has challenges, but it not without constant reward. The members of March were a great support in the early days. These days its just a bit of a balancing act. After all, we’re quite accustomed to late night Skype calls with clients from the Northern Hemisphere… So 3.00am meetings with child seems quite normal to us these days!

The North Melbourne offices of March Studio. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media which you tune into regularly for creative inspiration?

 · RRR the Architects Show (and RRR in general..)

102.7 RRR is an asset to Melbourne. RRR is such a diverse and fascinating community radio station. Its survival is dependant on subscription, and for a mere $75 outlay, the rewards are enormous. The Architects show, in particular, is our favourite inspiration for  intelligent conversation about our industry – not just the glossy images.

 · Pin-Up Project Space @ The Compound Interest

The Compound Interest is a collective of designers and artisans in Keele Street Collingwood. Pin-Up is the project space and it’s a must see for Melbourne’s current creative activities. Pin-Up has residencies and exhibitions which cross all design fields, however, what we love the most is the fact that there is an Architectural angle – unusual to find in any city around the world.

 · Broached Commissions

Broached Commissions initiates bespoke made and limited edition design collections, each collection based on a different event in Australian history. Broached are constantly beavering away to create new works, and when the pop up they are a must see. The designers and curators involved are first class, and a constant inspiration to us at March.

 · ACMI

Film is the quintessential act of our inspiration. It is the moving image that blends the image (the graphic designer) with the space (the architect). We have often wanted to do a film.

We have a personal collection of films ranging from the first Gaumont creation of Man Ray playing with his camera, to the entire Pixar collection. From Tarkovski films, via of course, all the French New Wave movement, to ‘Krtek’, a not so mainstream Czech cartoon from the 1970′s about the adventurers of a Mole… When our collection is thin on the ground we run down the road to ACMI for their Wednesday night Cinema club and their Friday Night Freaky movies, (spot the parents!). The extensive collections, marathons, and beautifully constructed exhibitions are also world class.

 · CCP

The Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) is one of Australia’s premier venues for the exhibition of contemporary photo-based arts. We are frequent visitors, but recently, we saw Gregory Crewdson, In a Lonely Place. WOW.

Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

In sleepy Sorrento lies a hidden treasure. The Wooden Boatshop, run by Tim Phillips and his wife Sally, is one of those world class creative pursuits happening right here in Melbourne.  With over 30 years of boat building experience, Tim builds boats entirely from timber using traditional methods, and yet combining these with current technologies.

What would be your dream project?

All our past projects have been, and current ones are, dream projects.

What are you looking forward to?

There is a bit in the pipeline at the moment to come from March. In early 2013 we’ll see is the opening of Hotel Hotel – which is a fantastic development in Canberra full of a number creative brains. We’ve worked for the past 14 months on the grand stair and hotel lobby, and we can’t wait to see the whole project come together.

Nishi Commercial grand stair to the new Hotel Hotel in Canberra, designed by March Studio.  Photos – Rodney Eggleston.

Nishi Commercial grand stair to the new Hotel Hotel in Canberra, designed by March Studio.  Photos – Rodney Eggleston.

Nishi Commercial grand stair to the new Hotel Hotel in Canberra, designed by March Studio.  Photos – Rodney Eggleston.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

We re oscillating between the city (home) and North Melbourne (work), and both are brilliant neighborhoods. Between the cafes, restaurant, bars, concert hall etc.. and all the wonders of the street life, it would be difficult to choose between one or the other. We’re constantly impressed by the output of the North Melbourne town-hall – which makes all of Errol Street come alive during Fringe or the Arts Festival. And living in the city, well, we have it all there.

The North Melbourne offices of March Studio. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Your most admired architectural icon in Melbourne?

We argued about this for a while actually… Melbourne has some great, and great obscure architecture. We went for the great obscure and decided unanimously on the Mission to Seafarers by Walter Butler in 1916 – 717 Flinders Street. Check it out.

Your fave bookstore in Melbourne for design reference books and general browsing?

The Paperback Bookshop on top of Bourke Street seems to be the place where we buy often. No need to actually walk in and browse, their window display usually has at least 10 books you must buy – and you do!  Great editing, and the people there know what is good.

Where / what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

We don’t get out much, anymore… But when we do its for Pizza or Pasta at our favourite restaurant - Lupino on Little Collins Street. Fresh, Simple, the best Italian in Melbourne without a doubt.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

The Dish Lickers at Sandown Racecourse Springvale. True! Discover a night session for yourself.

Rodney Eggleston and Anne-Laure Cavigneaux of March Studio in their North Melbourne office. Photo - Sean Fennessy.