The marriage of architecture and industrial design is a harmonious union when we delve into the work of multi-disciplinarian, Brian Steendijk, who runs a busy creative practice in Brisbane.
Although a successful architect, Brian has surely made a name for himself as a product designer, gathering an enviable international reputation along the way for many of his innovative designs. We are all too familiar with Brian’s work, as a number of his award-winning Cero chairs adorn the whimsical play spaces in State Library of Queensland’s The Corner.
Last month, Brian was also acknowledged for the central fountain and seat, designed for Spring Hill Primary School, in the inaugural 2017 Inde. Awards. It is an inventive take on courtyard seating. Designed to teach children about the importance of water, it recycles first grade grey water directing it towards a central tree.
We were fortunate to gain a greater insight into Brian’s practice and learned more about what makes him the designer that he is today.
Tell me a bit about what you do day-to-day and the rituals in your design studio?
The Steendijk studio work day starts with a round-table discussion of projects. Client meetings are generally scheduled for the late afternoon which gives us space to tackle design challenges uninterrupted, and usually mid-week we have product design meetings with EMBASSYliving. Ritualistically, we consult and discuss the essence of the ideas we are developing in order to fine-tune and create better opportunities for all those involved in our projects.
When we find an idea we hold on to it and develop it until we know if it will carry through as a strong component.
It was this philosophy that led us to develop the central fountain and seat for which we won the inaugural national INDE award for ‘influencer’. The idea of self-irrigating a tree and planting the seeds of sustainability in young minds drove us to design this simple but powerful piece.
How did you transition from architecture to product/ furniture design?
For me product design has a sculptural aspect that is more lyrical than architecture generally allows, so in our studio I use this side of our design practice to develop less regimented and spontaneous solutions. The great thing about our practice is the diversity of scales we encounter and the breadth of design ability it requires to go from macro to micro and back again.
We have developed many an architectural project that has influenced our product designs such as the award winning Tree House in Spring Hill where we developed a screen motif that we then applied to our Anise pendant lamp and jewellery range. We started from humble beginnings in 2002, and we were fortunate enough to win an Australian Design Award for the Cero chair. We kept this momentum and built upon it to now have a range of over 150 pieces with EMBASSYliving .
You are a prolific designer! Where does the inspiration come from?
I am very fortunate that I have the privilege of a profession that I love practising every day. For me architecture and design is a lifestyle that has enriched myself, close friends, and the people who engage with us.
I call it a ‘visible life’… one that is expressive of who we are and what we believe in, aesthetically, environmentally and economically.
There are many inspirations including Mother Nature with her intricacy and simplicity, and striving to be of your best like so many other talented architects and designers, comes to mind. I guess you just need to give it a go and be tenacious in your approach.
To paraphrase an 1882 letter by Vincent van Gogh: “One must look long and hard to arrive at the truth. What I want and set as my goal is damned difficult, and yet I don’t believe I’m aiming too high. I want to make architecture and design that moves some people… I would like to express not something sentimentally melancholic but deep joy. In short, I want to reach the point where people say of my work, that man feels deeply and that man feels subtly.”
Also, importantly, we have great clients who fortunately give us great freedom to develop breakthrough designs for both our architectural projects and our design through distributor EMBASSYliving.
Have you found it easy or difficult to make a design career in Queensland? What advice would you give to a design start-up trying to make it in Queensland?
For me, world-class architecture and design is not geographically constrained and no matter where you come from you can achieve great things.
We are fortunate in Queensland to have an inspirational coastline and weather, so we embrace a positive and healthy outlook. If you look broadly and think globally you can achieve great things, and while you may take a while longer to be recognised, that is unimportant if your impact is positive?
What are five design books or magazines that you have on your book shelf?
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
The Golden Section: natures greatest secret by Scott Olsen
Architecture Matters by Aaron Betsky
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
When its right to be wrong- fight for ideas they’re worth it by Russel Howcroft
The Tao of architecture by Amos Ih Tiao Chang
What was your favourite past-time or hobby as a child?
I used to make models and then radio controlled airplanes but what I then grew into and loved was windsurfing, which I did from when I was 13 years of age until today… if I ever get a chance. I learnt a lot about Mother Nature and aerodynamics and product design through my passion for this sport.