Carr Design Group is a team of 40 designers and architects that is led by Sue Carr, the Principal of Carr Deign Group. Sue’s has been in the industry of Design and Architecture for over 40 years, having established her first interior design firm, formerly known as Inarc, in 1971.
Thankfully, we’ve had the privilege to interview Sue and had the chance to learn more about Sue’s every day life and what influences her timeless designs and creativity.
Fabio: What initially led you to interior design?
Sue: Architecture and design is imposed on us, in our daily lives, our homes and our places of work. Sometimes we vehemently oppose it and at other times we strongly support it, but either way it encourages us to think, debate and defend – actions that all contribute to the fabric of our lives.
I was not born into interior design and readily admit that it failed to hold any interest until I began university. On reflection, I realise that my entire childhood was geared towards a life in design; a life that would allow me to exercise my two greatest passions – science and art.
My mother had a strong artistic background and an involvement in fashion whilst my father was a chemist. At the time my parents strongly believed that a career in science was a more logical and professional path. Unlike Europe, or even the United States, Australia was yet to embrace the importance of design. There was little if any support for a creative culture that offered designers the opportunities to develop the industry to its full potential. As a result, I commenced my studies in applied chemistry. Six months into the course, I had a sneaking suspicion that I had made a mistake.
Fabio: “Delivering design excellence is our mission” – can you tell us how you achieve this motto in all of your projects?
Sue: Designers and architects need to listen to their intuition, their emotional response, their gut feel. When you successfully combine this instinctiveness with the external factors of people, places, environments and experiences, the right design response will present itself.
I am constantly seeking ground breaking ideas and concepts. I am continually motivated and influenced by the related fields of design, fine arts, the social and behavioural sciences, technology, travel and the unique Australian environment.
I am inspired by travel on an annual basis to a place I have not been before. I am passionate about cities. They represent the heart of a culture and the spirit of a country. I enjoy losing myself in a beautiful city: exploring its rivers, its narrow laneways, its tallest skyscrapers, and its wide boulevards – the excitement of stumbling across unforgettable underground galleries, inconspicuous restaurants, hidden theatres, and secret retail destinations. I enjoy stopping in a café and simply observing the richness of a city through its people – their style, cultural diversity, conversations, language, way of life and the way they are a reflection of a city that is theirs.
Fabio: Sue, you have been creating beautiful design for over 40 years, tell us what was your most challenging project and how did you overcome the hurdles during the course of the project?
Sue: In over forty years of business, I have experienced many challenges none more so than often being encouraged to design interiors that would appeal to the ‘fashion at the time’. But it is through my belief that good design has the power to make a positive difference, that I have continued to rebel against fads and trends. Every project presents a new client, a new opportunity, a new location, a new time in life. In response to this we are always examining and learning different and exciting new ways of doing things and applying this knowledge to our projects.
Undoubtedly the biggest change has been today’s fast-paced global environment and the way we as designers have had to harness the power of digital technology to stay competitive.
Fabio: What is your favourite material to work with and why?
Sue: My favourite material is concrete – its solidity, strength, its beauty in its many forms……raw, polished, honed or rough. Its uses from structural pylons, to a refined bench or beautiful polished floor are many and varied.
At the same time austere but also soft, its almost inexhaustible potential and ever new applications and possibilities make it a favourite material of mine. Concrete displays an astonishing flexibility of utilisation as evidenced by recent developments where innovations and exciting applications provide inspiration and creativity. Contemporary projects provide impressive testimony to the many faces of concrete, its design potential and the ongoing relevance and inimitable fascination of concrete
Fabio: Let’s talk about one of Carr’s 2016 projects. Could you tell us what were the main influences for the design of The University of Sydney project?
Sue: My main influence for the design of the University of Sydney was exploring the question of, how might the agile working model influence the design of education spaces? In reality, shouldn’t teaching and learning spaces actually reflect the kind of workplace students may eventually work in?
At the same time, our designs for the Business School represent a new chapter in the University of Sydney’s learning and teaching school and the successful introduction of dynamic, agile spaces on a dramatic scale.
At what I hope will become a benchmark in the design of education spaces, students and visitors are greeted at the entry (not unlike the foyer of a commercial building) with a spectacular five story spiral staircase, the scale and boldness of which has been likened to a lightning rod. Spectacular in its curvilinear and orthogonal forms, the staircase serves as the prime circulation devise linking levels.