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The Charrette 15 Experience
Pt 1

For our latest Student Hub article, we handed the reins to Architectus Graduates Saran Kim and Amber Young. 
Both are accomplished graduates of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Melbourne. Their achievements landed them a well-deserved spot on the Dean’s Honours List, recognising their place among the top 5% of their cohort. 

Recently, Saran and Amber participated in our annual Design Charrette, joining teams from our Melbourne and Adelaide studios to solve a hypothetical design challenge along with colleagues from across the country. 
In this two part series, Saran and Amber share their experiences of five invaluable days immersed in an intensive creative collaboration that’s making a positive impact on their careers as young architects.

Part 1: Team Adelaide with Saran Kim

I took part in this year’s Design Charrette as a member of the Adelaide team, which consisted of colleagues with diverse backgrounds and experiences joining from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand. Design Charrette felt like an intensive design studio but with broader and more ambitious design gestures, experimenting with vast project areas beyond site boundaries while having complex contextual factors.

Listening to guest speakers, including Karl Telfer, the senior custodian from the Mullawirra Meyunna, deepened my understanding of the project’s location before starting the design process. It ensured that the Design Charrette wasn’t simply to propose something bold but grounded in a specific place, with political, economic, cultural, and social circumstances.

As a fresh graduate, discussing design ideas with equally passionate, senior staff members and exploring the potential of a place was an enriching experience. Thinking about layers of heritage significance (Indigenous, colonial, recent industrial heritage) ignited an insightful conversation about our relationships with the past and future of Thebarton, an area with an industrial history that has resulted in some contamination underground.

Finding common ground with the team members, as well as getting to know each other’s strengths, reinforced the importance of both communication and active listening skills, especially in developing and refining a proposal in such a short period of time.

On a personal level, the Design Charrette became a provocation for further questioning and thinking about how we engage with the landscape and diverse heritage of the place. Questions such as:

  • When we think about ‘healing’ a place, where is the boundary for both physical and conceptual intervention into the location’s natural features such as Karrawirra Parri (River Torrens)?
  • How do we know if something is worth retaining, either as is or in other forms, when it comes to heritage?
  • Does an opportunity to develop a place mean we have the right to decide what to keep or erase?

These questions don’t have black-and-white answers, and design cannot resolve everything. But having the opportunity to discuss these issues with my colleagues during Charrette was such a meaningful experience that will continue to evolve over time.