Melbourne-based architect Rodney Eggleston’s practice, March Studio, has garnered a reputation for producing highly sophisticated retail spaces and has perfected the ‘architecture for shopping’ formula beautifully.

Rodney’s presentation was entitled ‘Need or Desire’ and explored the role of architecture in communicating the cultural status and brand values across hospitality, retail, residential and the arts.

“Our architecture strives to create something else other than just creating shelter,” said Rodney.

Rodney gave us an overview of some of their residential work such as Mullet House  – a traditional Edwardian home coexisting with a very modern renovation on the back. He said the design was a reflection of the client, their budget and the site.

“We ask ourselves the question – why do people need to live in houses like this? Do they desire or do they need to live in houses like this?” said Rodney.

Rodney went on to explain that at the centre of each March Studio project is usually one simple idea based on what they believe to be necessity.

He described early projects which employed materials imaginatively to transform boring spaces. From using yellow tracing paper for a jewellery exhibition to making an omnipotent physical feature of 3000 filing folders in an office, March Studio has been unafraid to reimagine spaces with the mundane. Low-cost materials like cardboard or salvaged timber are generally used because of budgetary constraints or if the project is only temporary in nature.

March Studio has a long standing relationship with Aesop Skincare, having worked on 16 of their projects worldwide. Rodney described the genesis of that relationship when Aesop enquired why his car was always full of cardboard panels.

“Our friendly neighbours at the time were Aesop Skincare, and they constantly saw this scene driving off in front of their office. Eventually they enquired, ‘What’s with all of the cardboard?’ So then they decided that they wanted a cardboard store too,” explained Rodney.

“Aesop’s need for store designs coincided quite nicely with our need to sustain an architecture office. The design and construction of each space satisfies our need as architects to see something being built. A client like Aesop satisfies our need to research materials, their limitations and their possibilities. It’s satisfying our need to create environments which would quite frankly otherwise not be commissioned.”

Ironically the projects driven by necessity eventually become projects of desire. Aesop recently referenced the original cardboard box interior when that cardboard store was refurbished into a more permanent structure.

Rodney also described their award winning work on Hotel Hotel in Canberra. He said that every length of timber was found, sorted and tabulated so it could be modelled into their computer.

“We take these commercial projects on because we like to see how far we can push the normal and the everyday. We also believe that people are experiencing commercial architecture these days more than they are unfortunately galleries and other institutions.”

Rodney provided us a sneak preview of their submission for the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2016 Summer Architecture competition. Called GAV, the pavilion was a fun and interactive structure which took precedents from Roy Grounds’ NGV arches. Since this presentation, Melbourne-based firm M@ Studio was announced the winner of the commission.

After Rodney’s presentation, UQ Architecture’s John de Manincor moderated a panel discussion which can be viewed here.

This article was based on the lecture presented by Rodney Eggleston as part of the 2016 UQ Architecture Lecture Series event on 5 April 2016.

In partnership with the Australian Institute of Architects, APDL and UQ are pleased to offer this event as a professional development activity for architects. Architects who attend UQ architecture lecture series events can claim two Informal CPD points for attendance, or earn two Formal points with completion of the Design Online written exercise which reflects on new knowledge and the ideas presented. AACA competency: Design.

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Click here to download the full transcript

Click here to download further reading notes

Q & A Rodney Eggleston

March Studio

Anita Lewis

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