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Published 04 October 2012 04:16, Updated 18 October 2012 00:51
For Kelly Rattigan, architecture is a family tradition. Her great-great-grandfather William Hardwick was principal architect for the state of Western Australia from 1917 until 1927.
“He was interested in interesting ideas for the city of Perth,” she says. “And he was quite outspoken.”
The tradition of the man who designed Perth’s Wooroloo Sanatorium and Heathcote Hospital is continuing with Rattigan, the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2012 Emerging Architect of the Year. As managing director of North Fremantle-based firm Formwork, she specialises in work for not-for-profit and government clients and says her interest is in “bringing architecture and design to places that typically shunned design”.
One of these is the $34 million St Bartholomew’s House Lime Street in East Perth. The care facility is designed to house 148 men with different needs – from crisis, long-term or transitional accommodation to aged care. No facility in Australia has combined the different types of accommodation before, she says.
“There are many rules and regulations about the spaces but while it’s a challenge to work within these rules and regulations, you can still create fantastically diverse, delightful spaces,” Rattigan says.
The inner-city facility is about to open and is designed to be a pleasant space for the residents and to create a sense of community. Different parts of the building open onto an internal street – a passage through the building that recreates the idea of a city laneway. Rattigan made the key areas of kitchen and laundry – usually back-of-house functions – visible from the laneway.
“You can always see staff preparing food or washing clothes,” she says. “It’s like a big house. Food and washing are part of everyone’s daily ritual, so we’ve put them into the centre of the building to activate it.”
To contain costs, rooms have been kept small (“compact”, as Rattigan puts it) and the materials are simple, although there are different types of bricks and tiles to give variation. There are no internal passageways. Rather, rooms open out onto balconies and walkways with views.
“I don’t think it should cost much more to bring in good design,” she says. “We’re using a typical palette but broadening the selection of that palette. We’re creating good spaces, spaces well lit. It’s really about orientation and size of window openings.
“It doesn’t cost much more to do those types of things. It’s a minimal increase in cost.”
The St Bart’s facility is intended to resolve flaws in the supported housing system, whereby homeless clients who came initially for crisis care would then be moved to different locations for transitional care and then to long-term accommodation. Without continuity of care and consistent community support, they often end up homeless and in need of crisis care again.
Architects need to extend their role to become more involved with solving clients’ problems, rather than just waiting for a project brief, Rattigan says. She is now talking to another client about a teenage accommodation facility. Rather than simply presenting a project brief, the client is asking for her help in resolving some of the basic questions before the project even has a design.
“I now get not-for-profit clients,” she says, “who say: ‘I’m thinking of putting a new hostel for teenagers on this block. At the moment there’s no buildings for these kids. Can you help us come up with a way of doing that?’ ”
This means helping to decide whether the facility should even accommodate the people and if so, whether it should be on an overnight or longer term basis.
“We’re really having that initial fundamental discussion about things, rather than them working all that out then coming to the architect,” she says.
Helping out with diagnosing and resolving problems is not only something that architects are good at. It is something they have to do to sustain the profession. “Unless we do, we’ll be pushed further back behind the project mangers, the engineers,” she says.
There is a need for good design and Rattigan, who gets 80 per cent of her income from not-for-profit and government clients, is doing work that would no doubt make her great-great-grandfather proud.
“I’d love to do a prison,” she says. “I would love to do a detention centre. All those places where they would benefit from considering space. They need it.”