Sarah Ainsworth interviews Chloe Middleton from Alcorn Middleton Architects
SA: How did you find the process of setting up a business? And what did you find easy/hard along the way – any surprises, or things you didn’t consider?
CM: Looking back, and reflecting I would say the process of setting up a business, aside from the formalities related to accountants, banks, insurance, etc; to put it plainly, is somewhat like looking after a garden or an indoor plant. You need to feed it (i.e. with jobs), you need to nurture it (i.e. your brand, your clients and perhaps your social media/online presence), and you need to keep a watchful eye over it (i.e. the work you produce, and your daily interactions with others).
Similarly when you notice a plant not fairing to well, in the spot or position you have chosen for it, you might notice it needs more sunlight, or that you’re not watering it enough, or that it’s getting too much sunlight or that it needs more protection from the wind. This is what you will notice in your daily runnings of a business, through your clients, the consultants that you have to co-ordinate with, and the way in which you run your projects.
Every moment of everyday, you need to be in tune and aware, as this thing you have decided to create and foster, is constantly giving feedback in relation to how you are treating it. So you need to be able to adapt and learn quickly, what is working, or what isn’t, what needs to change, or what needs to be improved.
SA: What project was your ‘baptism of fire’?
CM: Every project presents its own challenges in their own unique form, but for me the most challenging project has been the re-branding the business; not an architectural project per se, but a passion project nonetheless. After 6.5 years as Kahrtel, Joel and I made the biggest decision of our careers (not to mention the biggest investment back into the business), to re-brand, and rename the business. For us, this was our pact to each other (and to the business, and our supporters), that we were willing to continue on this trajectory together, for the foreseeable future, to see what new impacts we could have on the world that surrounds us.
SA: What is the most challenging and inspiring project at the Alcorn Middleton at the moment? And when will we be able to see it?
CM: There have been so many opportunities and ambitious projects cross our desk, particularly work that has taken us to several jobs in Asia and Europe. Unfortunately, the realities of distance, budgets and politics tend to get in the road of projects such as these. Sometimes temporarily holding up the process for months on end; even years. However for us, most recently, it would have to be our Peakaboo House. This project in particular, was a rollercoaster of emotions, and to see the responses of the 2000 people pass through it last month, for Brisbane Open House 2019, was just astounding.
SA: Favourite building in Queensland?
CM: It’s hard not to be fond of places like QPAC and the Brisbane Powerhouse. Some of the best cultural offerings for Brisbane, these building programmes provide an incredible amount of flexibility. With their Brutalist nature rising beyond passing trends, against the backdrop of an ever-changing urban fabric, they are just great public buildings that can be shared with all walks of life; appreciated from both the inside and out.
SA: Best advice for emerging Graduates and Architects in Queensland?
CM: Find your mentors and begin building that foundation of contacts that you can rely on to ask the hard questions. These people are generally seniors in the industry, and come with a plethora of knowledge, experience and unbelievable stories. But your mentors don’t have to exclusively be older architects; some of our mentors are made up of senior engineers, and senior landscape architects (to name two). Lastly, don’t assume that someone is your mentor, and expect they’ll impart all their knowledge onto you. It’s best to build relationships with people, like you would an old friend. And like any friendship, having a mentor shouldn’t be a one-way street that benefits JUST you, be willing to have an open conversation and dialogue, and see what happens.
Thanks to Chloe Middleton of Alcorn Middleton Architects for participating in this interview.