Suzie Wiley and Laura Pascoe are the multi-faceted creatives behind Surroundings, a human-centred design consultancy based in Brisbane. Both experienced architects, the pair facilitate workshops that bring together diverse people involved in residential and commercial renovation and build projects, to stimulate discussion and share ideas in a supportive environment. The goal is to define a ‘human brief’ that complements a functional architectural brief, and to enhance connections between everyone involved in a project, from its earliest stages.
As Suzie describes it: ‘these days, building, legislation, and humans are more complex. It’s often too much for an architect to delve into, especially with increased fee pressure. So we’ve chosen one bit and we’re doing it really well as a speciality – a separate consultancy that’s plugged in to offer support.’
Laura and Suzie customise their workshops to suit each project. Essentially, though, each session is filled with guided brainstorming exercises, doodling, and face-to-face discussion, to uncover the nitty gritty of how people experience different spaces in varied scenarios. They remind people that they are the experts on themselves and their preferences (trust yo’self!) and that a broad range of voices will produce a more inclusive design. Kids, family and close friends are even welcome at residential workshops.
The pair first decided to join forces back in 2011. Suzie had started Surroundings as a residential architecture practice a few years prior, and upon meeting Laura the chemistry was instant. The business has evolved organically, gathering particular momentum with their human-centred approach over the last couple of years.
Aligning with all of this, is the evolution of their unique new garden workspace – the renovated undercroft of Suzie’s Queenslander home in Highgate Hill! Both women were inspired by childhood time spent making things in workshops underneath houses with their parents. ‘This garden studio is my “take” on a creative space under a house,’ says Suzie.
Originally a couple of closed-in rooms amid the dirt, Suzie removed internal walls, as well as an entire room from the upper floor, to create an atrium that introduces abundant natural light. This, combined with extending the timber floor and selectively adding walls, enabled the creation of a delightful indoor/outdoor, open-plan studio. With a host of flourishing greenery, this airy and adaptable wonderland is the perfect space to help nurture their business into its next exciting phase of development.