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Historic building’s redesign reconnects alumni with Curtin

Daniel Jauk

03/07/2019

Curtin alumni have helped transform the interior of Curtin’s newest city premises at 137 St Georges Terrace, Perth – a castle-like, Federation gothic building that has a special place in Curtin University’s history.

The striking red brick building was constructed to accommodate growing numbers at the Perth Technical School, Curtin’s earliest predecessor institution, from 1909 until its discontinuation in 1966.

Now, it is being used to provide new learning opportunities for business professionals and postgraduate students in the heart of Perth.

Director of Alumni and Advancement Services Erika Beazley says it was fitting that Curtin alumni were involved in transforming the historically significant building into a modern learning space.

“Having our alumni work on the design of the premises is a way of reconnecting our past – both as Curtin and as the Perth Technical School – with our present operations.”

We were able to speak with two Curtin alumni about their contributions to this exciting project:

Adam Cruickshank, Perth furniture designer

Adam Cruickshank

Adam Cruickshank doesn’t take commissions lightly.

“In this line of work, to be awarded a commission shows a high level of trust from the client,” he says.

“Each project must be carried out with maximum effort. The final work needs to be innovative and produced with a strong artisanal approach.”

Cruickshank operates a business that designs custom architectural features, furniture, installations, lighting, sculptural works and other products for the commercial market.

For the Building 137 project, Cruickshank was commissioned to produce a cabinet for the new board room.

The design features a subtle asymmetrical form made from solid French oak with a white Corian top, set on a polished base made from a welded 16mm aluminium plate.

He titled the work Senja Credenza, naming it after the island Senja in north-west Norway, which he was cycling around at the time he was asked to do the commission.

”Senja Credenza” by Adam Cruickshank
“Senja Credenza” (right), by Adam Cruickshank.

“This design, as most of my designs, was inspired by nature’s subtleties,” Cruickshank says.

“My range of cabinets pick up on a landscape’s surface forms; for example, the contours, ridges and silhouettes.”

Cruickshank, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Furniture Design) in 2007, says he was “delighted” to have been approached for the project and to have reconnected with Curtin.

“All of my units provided me with an excellent introduction to the industry. My lecturers were very experienced and were able to pass on their specialised knowledge.

“By attending Curtin, I became part of a larger network of professionals, which led to mentoring programs and work opportunities.”

Emily Wills, Melbourne textile designer

Emily Wills

Creative Director for textile design business SURFACE 1°22, Emily Wills is passionate about creating lively, colourful surface pattern designs that imbue personality into a space.

For the Building 137 project, she teamed up with Melbourne lighting designer, Ode to Elma, to design two geometric prints that were digitally printed on to soft furnishing fabrics, including covers for cushions located in the reception area.

“My digital textile design process starts by hand, usually with sharpies, gouache or fine tip pens.

“Moving between hand and computer ensures elements of texture, shade and the imperfection of hand-generated motifs are retained.”

Geometric prints by Emily Wills
Geometric prints, by Emily Wills, in collaboration with Ode to Elma.

She also supplied colourful, organic textured pendant lights, which she had originally designed with Ode to Elma lighting designer Kerrie Mould.

The pendant lights now hang in breakout spaces between rooms.

“Kerrie and I designed a range of textile and lighting products in 2017.

“They came about through our collective vision to create unique design pieces, which reflected our love of colour, texture and print.”

Pendant lights by Emily Wills
Pendant lights, by Emily Wills, in collaboration with Ode to Elma (photo: Penny Lane).

Wills is considered a leader in the Australian and Asian surface design community.

She founded SURFACE 1°22 nine years ago and for the past two years has lectured at RMIT University’s prestigious College of Design and Social Context.

Her prints have been included in clothing collections by global fashion labels, including Vamastyle and Syndicut London.

She has also held various academic positions, including at Curtin University and at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore.

“I’m delighted to work alongside people who share similar values of creativity, curiosity and the desire to create something special, meaningful and sustainable.”

Wills, who is now based on Melbourne, says she was excited to work remotely on a project for Curtin, from which she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Fashion and Textile Design) in 2005.

“My degree has helped build my skills in critical and creative thinking, and the ability to move and collaborate between disciplines.”