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The Brisbane Design Duo With A Human-Centred Approach

Studio Visit

It’s surely every architect and designer’s dream to work from a thorough, clearly articulated design brief. But creating the ultimate brief is easier said than done.

Based in a newly renovated garden studio, Suzie Wiley and Laura Pascoe are Surroundings – a human-centred design consultancy in Brisbane, who offer a progressive ‘plug-in’ service to assist architects, clients and builders with the challenge of nailing the perfect brief.

12th March, 2019

Surroundings’ Brisbane HQ. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

The duo behind the trailblazing consultancy. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Surroundings hosted Brisbane Open House in October 2018 to do their Surroundings Home Masterclass. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Brisbane Open House undertake the Surroundings Home Masterclass. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Workshop details. Photo – Jon Henzell.

A recent custom-designed ‘Design and creative thinking’ workshop for Aesop, which was part of one of their strategic retreats held in the gardens of the Heide Museum. Photo – Jon Henzell.

‘Design and creative thinking’ workshop for Aesop. Photo – Jon Henzell.

Adjoining Surroundings’ Studio space is the Edgecliff Treehouse, which is available to rent on Airbnb. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Edgecliff Treehouse, which is available to rent on Airbnb. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Edgecliff Treehouse. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Edgecliff Treehouse. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Edgecliff Treehouse. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Jo Hoban
Tuesday 12th March 2019

‘These days, building, legislation, and humans are more complex.’ – Suzie Wiley.

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.

For more about Surroundings and their workshops, visit their website and follow their Instagram @surroundingseesThey also now offer online Home Masterclasses and consults.

Keep an eye out for an extended version of this story on Space & Process and @spaceandprocess.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net