I know I didn’t advertise it on here – sorry! But there was a Merge Talk on a Practice last night at CODA Studio. And it was great. Practice Directors Emma Williamson and Kieran Wong were brilliant charismatic speakers who, I imagine, could encourage any client to be led on their journey. A seriously under-considered but so important skill, their presentation format and casual speaking style had the group of thirty-ish graduates and students enraptured. Not knowing too much about how CODA started, it was great to learn more about their history of starting in residential projects straight out of uni and their current evolution to more public projects. Even in their very first days of practice it seemed they had a very strong ethical position on public works and how good design creates better community, however they had to build up their body of work before they could get more of those bigger, more public projects. Which I guess is a fairly common route, but it does beg the question, how do you start your own small firm if you have no interest / skill / desire / experience in residential design?
Anyway, they also discussed the ways they practice which was very interesting. Their whole practice, from the clients they take on, to their design process encapsulates their distinct values of collaboration, research and respectful choices. I found that aspect of their talk really fascinating – they are constantly assessing the ‘health’ of their practice to ensure what they are doing is actually what they want to be doing, and they make adjustments to suit, and change their course, as required. So often the buzzwords of ‘collaboration’ and ‘research’ and ‘pro bono’ get bandied about so often and they often don’t mean much. But CODA seems to actually live their values. When they say they collaborate, they actually work with other firms in all aspects of a project, sharing ideas and learning from each other. And their award winning pro bono project, the Horse Stables, was actually built by (or at least assisted by!) CODA staff over two weekends. Really inspiring.
Plus the office space is amazing, and really seems to foster the idea of sharing ideas, and is a visual example of the kind of thoughtful work they do, with natural materials, lots of texture, and reclaimed / recycled / rejuvenated materials and furnishings. Oh and the models! Cardboard and balsa models everywhere, great to see!
Ok, enough raving…thanks CODA for letting us into your space and being an inspiration for the audience on how to set up a practice to stay true to yourselves. Really fascinating.