Architect profile: Emma Young

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The Cubo House exemplifies how up-cycling can be employed elegantly, Young says.

The Cubo House exemplifies how up-cycling can be employed elegantly, Young says. Image: Supplied

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Emma Young is co-director of Melbourne-based firm PHOOEY Architects.

Emma Young is co-director of Melbourne-based firm PHOOEY Architects. Image: Supplied

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Inside the Cubo House in Fitzroy North, Melbourne.

Inside the Cubo House in Fitzroy North, Melbourne. Image: Supplied

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The kitchen space inside the Cubo House.

The kitchen space inside the Cubo House. Image: Supplied

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The staircase inside the Melbourne home.

The staircase inside the Melbourne home. Image: Supplied

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Architect and co-director of Melbourne-based firm PHOOEY Architects Emma Young is coming to New Zealand to speak at the Construction Marketing Services Design Experience Series from 30 June - 3 July 2014. Ahead of her tour, we caught up with the 43-year-old to hear about her progressive design practice and her career as an architect.

Urbis: How long have you been at PHOOEY?

Emma Young: PHOOEY is an acronym of mine and [partner] Peter Ho’s initials, PH & EY. The OO is the & turned on its side. We formed PHOOEY in 2002. For five years, I was employed elsewhere during the day and I contributed nights and weekends to our new company. Peter and I were both workaholics until our son Max was born in August 2006. I then started working full time at PHOOEY  in 2007.

U: Where did you study?

EY: I started studying architecture at the University of Canberra in 1990, then switched to New South Wales University in Sydney after taking a year off to travel overseas. I moved to Melbourne in 1995 and finished my studies at RMIT University.

U: What drew you to architecture?

EY: I was initially inspired by the architecture of the 1980 documentary TV series Shock of the New by Robert Hughes in high school art class. However, I wanted to be a fashion designer. When I didn’t get into fashion design, I was at a loss and my mother suggested I studied occupational therapy, which I reluctantly did for six months and hated. My older brother (who was already studying architecture at Sydney University) took advantage of my wagging classes and asked me to help him with various assignments, which I loved, so the year after I made the switch!

U: Tell us about some of your work with PHOOEY architects.

EY: PHOOEY Architects are engaged in sustainable future proofing. This means our solutions utlilise energy and water efficient techniques and up-cycling. We promote resilient designs which adapt to change over time.

The most important reason we up-cycle is because we believe in taking responsibility for the waste created during construction. This is a way of economizing on resources and avoiding land consumption. We are also entertained and fulfilled by the process of redefining what people might ordinarily consider to be waste.

U: What links do you have to New Zealand?

EY: My Mum grew up in Auckland. My Grandad, Cyril Bassett was the first New Zealand serviceman to win a Victoria Cross during the First World War. While I spent every second Christmas in Auckland as a child, I have not returned since becoming an Architect. This visit is a sort of homecoming; an opportunity for my children to meet their extended family and learn about their history. With any luck, this trip will be the first of many.

U: What topics will you be discussing at the CMS Design Experience series?

EY: I’ll be discussing PHOOEY’s approach to sustainable architecture and interior design. I’ll mostly be talking about our employment of re-use and adaptation or up-cycling strategies. I’ll feature the Cubo House (which we believe represents our most successful expression of elegantly solved sustainability), adaptation and our re-use principles to date.

U: What is your most prized project to date?

EY: My most awarded and published project is the children’s activity centre in South Melbourne. Our quiet achiever is an arts and crafts studio, Kaleidoscope, as this has not been awarded or widely published but is often cited as precedent by prospective clients. My current favourite is the Cubo House in Fitzroy North, Melbourne.
U: What projects are you working on at the moment?

EY: Our own house, again! We are also working on a refurbishment of an existing iconic building to create the new School of Fashion and Textile Design for RMIT University, which we’re doing as a joint venture with another firm.

Emma Young will be speaking at the Design Experience Series, hosted by Construction Marketing Services from 30 June – 3 July 2014 in Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington. For more information, click here.

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