Hear from Brisbane-based architects Melody Chen, Atelier Chen Hung and Maytree Studios’ Rebecca Caldwell and Emily Juckes as they discuss new practices and models of practice at the fifth session of the 2017 UQ Architecture lecture series.

In this article we focus on Melody Chen of Atelier Chen Hung.

In 2008 Melody Chen and James Hung founded A-CH (Atelier Chen Hung), a practice driven by a multidisciplinary approach, where collaboration is encouraged throughout the design and construction process. A focus on exploring ideas, paired with a pragmatic perspective, has enabled the creation of spaces that are highly refined, memorable and functional. Prior to A-CH, Melody gained experience in education and high-rise commercial projects working with several Brisbane firms. She is also an advocate for contemporary art, and a founding committee member of Future Collective QAGOMA.

A-CH was selected in Wallpaper’s 2014 Architects Directory as one of 20 world’s best young architectural practices. A-CH have received numerous design awards including 2013 AIA National Architecture Awards for Small Project, and more recently two awards in the 2016 NSW Architecture Awards for Residential Architecture – Houses (New) and Sustainable Architecture.

Read Melody’s Q&A:

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

I was born in Taiwan, spent most of my formative childhood and teenage years in Chunghua, a small city in the central west coast of Taiwan.  I migrated with my parents to Brisbane when I was 17 and have been calling Brisbane home since.  In school I was given an assignment on the Pompidou Centre designed by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini.  It was so fascinating that I thought why not give architecture a go.

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

James and I have a six-month old baby, the juggling act of looking after the baby and running a practice is the new normal for us at the moment.

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

Walking to work is a great way to start the day, absorbing the energy that West End streets has to offer. I also have a daily habit of consuming a Portuguese tart from the deli down the road from our office.  I am not sure if it enhances productivity or creativity, but it certainly makes me feel happy.

What principles inform your work?

We are consciously aware that our practice exists within broader cultural, economical, political and sociological conditions, and in some ways our work is responsive to these constantly evolving circumstances. Ultimately, we believe the strength of a work lies with its immediate, visceral impact they have on its inhabitants, therefore the physicality and execution of ideas is important.

Where do you go for design inspiration?

The peculiarities of the client and/or the site provide sources of project specific inspirations for us. We have also utilized our studio entry corridor as a gallery space, and are delighted to have hosted many inspiring emerging artists and their work. James and I also travel abroad as much as possible and always feel refueled afterwards.

What has been a career highlight for you so far?

Apart from establishing the practice, seeing people enjoying the buildings we designed gives me sense of professional pride.

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

Architecture is a demanding profession that requires tremendous tenacity. My admiration goes to people who have maintained practice of architecture and making positive contributions to the built environment.

What are your top five favourite design books?

Glen Murcutt: Thinking Drawings / Working Drawing by Japanese publisher TOTO

A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander

Collage City by Colin Rowe

Building Construction Illustrated by Francis Ching

The Ultimate Plant Book by CSIRO

What can attendees to the lecture expect to hear and see?

Brisbane is going through progressive change of its built environment. I will talk briefly about the practice as part of this evolving landscape and reflect upon the work we have built in the fringe suburbs.

Photo Credit:
Photo 1: Melody Chen
Photo 2: Keperra House. Photo by Alicia Taylor.
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