A professional resource for the design curious

Designer Sue Fenton Melds Form and Function

Sue Fenton is a senior associate at Woods Bagot who has recently been focussing on the design needs of the education sector. We had a chat about this, interior design, and life.



BY Tess Ritchie

March 26th, 2015


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  • Your top 3 influences.

Space, place making and narratives. Or Site specific, anthropological mapping, enabling ownership.

  • How did you come to be an Interior Designer? What first drew you to the practice?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in an architect designed house by Kevin Borland. This was to have a pretty profound effect. Add to that, my family’s businesses. One was an old fashioned hardware store which I am sure helped drive my first love, making sculpture and secondly, my mother and grandmother had a shop, selling their greatest passion for all things Scandinavian. Marimekko, Arabia, Kosta Boda, Iittala, Georg Jensen etc. I spent my childhood flitting between the two, designing the windows and generally absorbing so much.

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  • What has your experience with education design been?

I started working on some interiors within existing buildings, for example the Australian Catholic University was merging their campuses to Fitzroy fifteen years ago and since then we have completed a new building to support their expanding allied health programs followed by the new library refurbishment. At the University of Melbourne, we re-used existing heritage buildings at the School of Engineering and the Baldwin Spencer Building to create spaces that responded to a growing need for places where students could continue working on campus amongst their cohort.

  • What interests you most about this particular field of Interior Design?

The education sector has a vested interest in thinking ahead to meet the demands of a rapidly changing student profile. The spaces we are starting to see evolve from this. The parallel research into spatial psychology along with studies that examine how a space can impact on learning outcomes, the rapid pace at which we will see the facilitation of technology within the space makes working in this area really engaging and as a designer and, dare I say, parent. These students will then enter the workforce and expect spatial models that work for them.

I am lucky enough to be working with a highly talented team of education specialists at Woods Bagot, including Director Georgia Singleton, Principal Sarah Ball and Education Consultants and experts Jo Dane and Kenn Fisher. For this reason, Woods Bagot is able to conduct specialists consulting services, working with stakeholders and users for each project in order to determine the best education design solution.

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  • What are the biggest developments in education design you’ve seen? What do you predict they will be in the future?

I keep coming back to Art School where students make their own space to some degree, maybe designers enable this process and unique specialist spaces are set up nearby like co- working-labs. They say one of the principle things you need at university is networks of like-minded people to advance your passions beyond uni together as a generation of learners and practitioners. Spaces that facilitate that are not classrooms.

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  • On a lighter note… most exciting material and why.

Textiles: Historically the first material to create interior divisions in a space. And I just love them. The sense of detail.

  • Favourite local landmark/building.

I love the miniature weather station on Victoria parade, Melbourne. A small triangle of land with cyclone fencing. Priceless.

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  • Favourite international landmark/building.

Casa de Musica in Porto, Portugal by Rem Koolhaas

  • Dream project to work on (real or imaginary).

Creative studio space for workspace and learning spaces combined that explores a hybrid educational model. Small makers are already doing this in inner city warehouses but on a bigger scale could be really interesting. Utopian I know.

  • Dream person to collaborate with.

That would have to be James Turrell or Anish Kapoor.

Woods Bagot
woodsbagot.com


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