When Alecia Mostert moved to Melbourne, she didn’t expect to make connections so quickly. With a degree in architecture in her back pocket and a desire for real hands-on experience, choosing to study Interior Design at Collarts was a no-brainer.
Now in her first year, she and her classmates had the exclusive opportunity to design and collaborate with industry leaders, DENFAIR. Beloved as Australia's leading architecture and design tradeshow, DENFAIR—now a completely virtual event for 2020—brings together designers, architects, stylists and property professionals from across the world to celebrate original and inventive design.
Responding to a brief, Alecia's work was selected for DENFAIR's Front Centre space; showcasing her sustainable and forward-thinking design in a live industry setting. Celebrating her achievement ahead of the event, we caught up with Alecia to chat about her inspiration, experience and future goals.
Hi Alecia, thanks so much for chatting with me! Tell me a little bit about yourself and how your love for design started.
I was born in South Africa where I studied architecture at the University of Cape Town. After my studies, I then moved to Melbourne to live with family and hopefully start my career. This proved more difficult than I thought due to my lack of experience and a network. I’ve always loved focusing my attention on the finer details in projects, which inspired me to study interior design. This is what brought me to Collarts, as I wanted to not only further my studies but be connected to an industry that has opportunities for graduates.
I totally get what you mean, Melbourne has such a great creative culture that really connects people. What made you decide to study with Collarts?
Studying felt like a good way to broaden my networks in Melbourne, and when I was looking at my options, Collarts’ practical approach was exactly what I was looking for. Collarts is so industry-focused and understand the industry. That approach was important to me, as I wanted my degree to be a stepping stone for a job in the future.
Yeah, it’s really important to get that industry experience so you can work in the industry post-uni. What’s it been like having the chance to work on an industry event like DENFAIR so early on in your studies?
I’m technically between Trimester 3 and 4, so working on an official event like DENFAIR has been a great opportunity so early on in my studies. Although I’ve had experience responding to residential architecture briefs back in Cape Town, this was the first time approaching a project from an interiors perspective; bringing the scale down and being able to focus on the experience of the space. The principals are somewhat the same, but I’ve been able to look at things differently which I loved.
I’d love to know more about your approach and workflow when it comes to design. How did you approach the Front Centre brief?
The theme for DENFAIR is gravity. In my personal design approach, I like to look at the experience of a space—not so much a design style or anything—but how someone's going to experience and interact with it. The theme of gravity instantly took me to the Memphis design movement, where I wanted to use minimal curved shapes and contrasting colours. The curved forms make the space more approachable and invite people to meander through the space and experience the objects on display. The contrast of two finishes also helps create a backdrop for objects in some cases. As a design, it was important to attract people to the display, but also not be too overwhelming that it distracts from the objects—so the end result is a delicate balance between the two.
Oh wow, what a great source of inspiration. What did the brief involve and how did you blend your ideas with the theme of gravity?
The brief itself called for the use of 20 MDF boards, which are 1.2 meters wide by 2.4 meters long, and finished with Abet Laminati’s latest range of laminates. A large part of my problem-solving was using those materials in a 9x4 meter space, as I needed enough space to display 10 to 15 objects. To get my groundings, I created a physical model and I started by cutting out little pieces of card to scaled MDF measurements. Then I just started cutting Memphis-y kind of shapes, putting them together to see how it would work in the space and playing with different eye levels for a floating anti-gravity effect. That's where the idea of the recycled cardboard tubes came in.
I've been following Japanese architect Shigeru Ban for quite a while. He created this cardboard tube furniture and also constructed a few buildings out of cardboard tubes, which was incredibly cool and inspired me. I thought to myself: oh, I could also use cardboard tubes. It's recyclable and it's recycled, and you can cut them at any height to create these platforms. So technically, while it wasn't part of the brief, I went that extra step for sustainability which helped with my work being chosen. It was also a way to make height within the exhibition without using too much MDF or distracting from the sponsor's premium products.
Yeah, I personally love the way you used soft shapes to contrast those materials. It’s all really clever, while also being responsible for wastage. Is sustainability something that you want to keep pursuing in your own design?
Yeah, sustainability is a really important point to be considering in all design. It shouldn't be a do-you or don't-you. I think everyone should be looking at it from the get-go on projects. This was a project where we got given our materials, but I enjoyed having the chance to input an idea that would make it more sustainable. The way I designed it was to be quite modular and flexible as well, so for future exhibitions, you could reuse items as they can be moved around and used in a different way.
That’s so interesting, especially when it comes to user experience and sustainability. Do you think it’s important to ensure people can comfortably navigate spaces?
I think it is really important because spaces ultimately affect people's wellbeing and happiness. I feel like if you consider your user first, they feel invited and comfortable within a space, enjoying it better. There are a few psychological things at play if you look deeper into it, but just in general the materials, shapes, light, colours, and textures all play an important role in defining an experience.
I love that approach and I’m so excited to see your work be translated online at DENFAIR 2.0!
Yeah, I'm excited to see where it goes! The great thing about 3D technology or digital design is that now we can see what our spaces look and feel like before it even gets built. The move into VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) is also really exciting because then you can experience design for yourself, allowing you to connect with your work on ways never before possible. Digital experiences are a really sustainable way to get clients on board with your ideas too—especially with interiors, as it’s very samples-based—and totally eliminates additional wasteful practices.
I agree completely. Since gaining this industry experience so early on in your studies, what else are you hoping to achieve at Collarts?
I definitely want to continue to build up a network. I feel like Collarts has helped me achieve that already, as I've already made some like-minded friends in my classes and industry. The lecturers have also been really supportive, nice, and approachable. This opportunity with DENFAIR has come halfway through my degree, which makes me feel a new kind of confidence in both my skills and future.