The 2018 UQ Architecture lecture series continues with Rachel Neeson of Sydney’s Neeson Murcutt Architects.
Rachel Neeson formed Neeson Murcutt Architects with her late partner Nicholas Murcutt in 2004, and has recently been joined by Stephen Neille, formerly Pendal + Neille in Perth. The work of Neeson Murcutt Architects has been recognised locally and internationally through publications, exhibitions and awards. It is one of few smaller practices to have been awarded the highest professional accolade across diverse categories – public architecture, urban design, interior, heritage, education and residential architecture.
Rachel studied architecture at the University of Sydney, graduating with the University Medal in 1993. She was awarded the Board of Architects 2002 Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship and completed a Masters of Architecture in Barcelona. Her talk for the UQ Architecture lecture series is entitled Sense & Sensibility.
Learn more about what led Rachel into architecture and her favourite design books…
Tell us a little about your background, and what originally led you to architecture?
I was introduced to architecture as a possible profession through my high school art teacher, however I also had a rich spatial upbringing – a commune in London, camper van in Europe, flatette in Toronto, tiny terrace back in Sydney – which I suspect is what inherently drew me to the field. We didn’t live in a more usual single suburban house until I was 19.
What principles inform your work?
Our projects develop out of a layering of logic, and at the same time are attentive to the potential for unexpected delight.
In what way do you think your work responds to the lecture series theme ‘in-terre-vention’?
We look to build meaningful relationships with place through our architecture. We have a broad understanding of ‘site’ that incorporates the urban context, orientation and microclimate, landscape and topography, history and collective memory. Our projects sometimes morph, becoming almost inseparable from their settings.
Where do you find your design inspiration?
Our design inspiration is specific to each project, and is always seeded in some kind of reading of the actual site or setting – the crystal collection at the Australian Museum, an ancient rockface on a house site in Bronte, the carnival atmosphere in times gone by of Prince Alfred Park. Of course, ‘inspiration’ is beautifully muddied by personal experience, by conversation and collaboration, and through the work of others, artists and architects alike.
What are your top three favourite design books?
This constantly changes depending on what we are thinking about through our projects, but there are three monographs that we are constantly pulling off our bookshelf – Lina Lo Bardi Built Work published by 2G, Carme Pinos: An Architecture of Overlay published by The Monacelli Press, and Alvar Aalto Houses published by au.