Hear from Melissa Liando of Csutoras & Liando at the second session of the 2017 UQ Architecture lecture series.

Melissa founded her practice in 2012 together with Laszlo Csutoras, whom she met during her postgraduate studies in the Netherlands. Born in Jakarta, she spent part of her childhood in Indonesia before moving to Sydney, where she later studied Interior and Furniture Design at the University of Technology Sydney. Following her graduation she worked in Australia for a short while before deciding to take a break to travel. This trip to the US, Europe and Asia inspired her to continue her education and study architecture. She completed her Masters in Architecture at TU Delft in the Netherlands. Melissa has lived and worked in Hungary, Australia, the UK, and currently Indonesia.

Csutoras & Liando work on public, commercial or residential commissions, and on self-initiated, socially motivated projects. They have lectured in the UK, Hungary and Indonesia. In 2014 one of their works, Kineforum Misbar was included in MoMA’s publication Uneven growth. They have also been invited to exhibit at the Deutsches Arkitektur Museum in Frankfurt and at the Architecture Biennial In Chicago.

Read our Q+A with Melissa:

Tell us a little about your background, and what originally led you to architecture?

I spent the first eleven years of my life in Jakarta, Indonesia, before I moved to Sydney, Australia. I majored in Interior Design at UTS Sydney, and worked for a while at a couple of local firms that undertook both architecture and interior projects, before I decided to travel to the US, Europe and Asia for nine months. Following that I studied architecture at TU Delft in the Netherlands.

At some point after I graduated from my interior degree I felt that working on interior spaces was not enough personally. And so I quit my job to travel. When I was younger I was always spending time in the library looking at architecture and art books, but to see them in real life while traveling was something else. One in particular that really hit a note was Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute. And so at the end of my trip I decided to enroll myself to architecture school.

After graduating from TUDelft I worked in London as an architect and then in 2012 we started our practice with my partner. Initially, we were based in London but these days we spend most of our time in Jakarta.

Can you give us a little insight into what a normal work day looks like for you?

We usually start the day with a short briefing on what we’d like to achive for the day, future deadlines, meeting preparation and so on. If no visits to workshops/ site or no meetings are scheduled, we would spend the day working at the office. When possible I try to make phonecalls and write emails at the beginning and at the end of the day, so I could have a good long block of work in between.

What are some daily office rituals or habits you employ to enhance your productivity and creativity?

Allowing time for open discussion at all stages, work or non-work related. Even though all our drawings are pretty much computerised, we still do lots of quick small hand sketches, and also model making. We play music while we’re working, and we try to stick to normal working hours as much as we can, so we could all still have time do other activities after work. I think that’s important so that we can be exposed and be intune with things outside. I also always have my lunch away from the computer or the office to take my mind off work.

What principles inform your work?

We try to take a simple and straightforward approach. To try and experiment with materials whenever we can. Things need to be practical enough to work. In our work we try to be simple and straightforward, to come up with pragmatic and purposeful designs, which are appropriate for the location. We like to create approachable, generous and occasionally playful spaces. The client’s requirements, local habits or customs, regulations, available materials, technologies etc are all very location specific and are in a way a reflection of the local culture. These inform our designs to a great extent.

Where do you go for design inspiration?

Spaces and things we see and experience from our travels and from day to day, researching on historical precedents, books, conversations with people, seeing an exhibition, hearing a lecture, many things really.

What has been a career highlight for you so far?

In our office the Kineforum project has been a very memorable experience. We met lots of wonderful people and it was a great introduction to how things work in Indonesia.

Which Australian or international architecture people, practices, designers or similar do you admire?

Louis Kahn, Marcel Breuer, Tony Fretton Architects, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Glenn Murcutt, Peter Zumthor, Jorn Utzon, Elemental, Achille Castiglioni, Karel Martens, Bruno Munari, Mies van der Rohe, Lina Bo Bardi, Shiro Kuramata, Jose Antonio Coderch, amongst others.

What are your top five favourite design books?

Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor

Louis I. Kahn Houses by Yutaka Saito

Shiro Kuramata by Deyan Sudjic

Achille Castiglioni Complete Works by Sergio Polano

Printed Matter by Karel Martens

What can attendees to APAF expect to hear and see?

I will show our Kineforum project in more detail and a few other projects that we’ve done or are currently doing. These will hopefully illustrate local practices and working methods, the surprises that we encounter, and how we try to approach and accommodate them in realising our ideas.

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