Do You Doodle?

Studies suggest avid doodlers are better thinkers – so it’s no surprise that many architects are guilty of doodling at every available opportunity.


In a recent TED talk entitled Doodlers, Unite! writer and thinker Sunni Brown extolled the virtues of doodling as a vital tool for retaining and processing information. She describes the doodle as “one of the greatest allies of intellectual thought” – often thought of as a sign of losing focus, she explains, “in reality it’s a pre-emptive measure to stop you from losing focus.”

Once, being caught doodling during a meeting or conversation was considered a faux pas; now, it’s increasingly recognised as a way of gathering and expressing thoughts. In London’s Battersea, the Will Alsop-designed Doodle Bar invites people to come in and share their ideas over a drink and a scribble.

For architect Catherine Greig, of East London-based practice Make:Good, doodling is an essential part of the creative process.

“My most prolific doodling time is first thing in the morning. It is almost a morning ritual where I write the date and then doodle around it while I plan and prioritise my day,” she explains. “I always doodle a series of squares, cubes, cuboids and hatch in a pattern. They are all very similar and repetitive. They don’t relate to a project but are almost like a meditation which gives my brain space for deep problem solving.”

Doodling helps Greig get into deep thought, develop ideas and mull over problems. “It is something I do every day to help me move projects forward, so it helps me out on a daily basis. They also prompt conversation in meetings; clients sometimes comment on them and how I keep my notebook (which I am actually really precious about and take a ridiculous pride in!). In an odd way they can be an icebreaker and give people a thing to connect with me on.”

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Fragrance Lab at Selfridges

A ‘journey to the outer reaches of scent’ at London’s Selfridges department store explores the future of design through a sensory customer experience, writes Ola Bednarczuk. 


A collaboration between interior design studio Campaign, trend forecasters The Future Laboratory and perfumiers Givaudan has brought an experiential contemporary apothecary to the storefront of London department store Selfridges.

The Fragrance Lab takes shopping for perfume to a new level, inviting customers to explore their personalities and preferences to find the scent that best represents them, whilst taking them on a nostalgic journey incorporating all the senses.

Visitors are invited into a pristine white laboratory-like space, where they are handed an iPad and asked to respond to a series of images and questions designed to analyse their aesthetic tastes, buying behaviours and decision-making processes. Then, with the help of an audio-guide led by an enigmatic character identifying himself as ‘the shopkeeper’, they take a journey through a sequence of spaces designed to evoke nostalgia, heighten the senses and increase their awareness of how they react to what’s around them. At the end of the journey they are presented with their very own Givaudan perfume, which best matches their character based on the decisions made throughout their experience.

The Fragrance Lab is the second collaboration between Campaign and the Future Laboratory, in a series of projects designed to draw on the retail talents of the former and the consumer insight and trend expertise of the latter. Each of the evocative spaces and experiences the visitor goes through is designed to feel other-worldly and magical, with the ultimate purpose of gaining vital information about the visitor to aid the creation of their signature scent.

It’s an ambitious project for a department store to commission, and one which shows a real interest on behalf of Selfridges to explore the possibilities a retail space can offer in a digital age. At a time when online retail is perceived as a growing threat to the physical store, Fragrance Lab is a fascinating look at how digital elements, when combined with consumer insight, clever design and personalised service, can provide a tailored, unique customer experience that results in a bespoke product.

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Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

A major exhibition in London explores architecture from the human angle. Ola Bednarczuk visits Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined at the Royal Academy.


Inviting seven contemporary architectural firms from six different countries into its ornate 19th century galleries, London’s Royal Academy has created an intriguing exhibition that encourages visitors to experience and appreciate the built environment through all their senses.

“Architecture is so often in the background in our lives. We don’t often think about it; we don’t think about what it does for us,” explains curator Kate Goodwin. “It’s practical; it’s functional, but when does it move beyond that and offer us something more?”

In Sensing Spaces, the pieces serve no real practical purpose. With the gallery spaces as their context, their aim is to provoke emotion and reflection; to encourage visitors to experience each installation and consider its material, its movement, its light and space.

Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura offsets two large, ornate wooden doorways of the gallery with concrete equivalents positioned slightly off-kilter. Looking as if they have come unstuck, they bring attention to their material and form rather than serving as functional objects.


A giant timber structure by Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen first looks to be solid, but soon reveals a ramp and series of spiral staircases leading up to an open platform. Daylight floods in from a skylight overhead and visitors’ attentions are drawn to the beauty of the white ceilings, sculptural busts and gilted accents of the neoclassical gallery space. It’s not often that you find yourself in an exhibition standing on the artwork and admiring the gallery’s cornices.

Burkina Faso-born, Germany-based Diebedo Francis Kere’s igloo-like structure invites participation; visitors can add to the piece throughout the course of the exhibition with the help of thousands of coloured plastic straws. The idea is to engage people in the building process to create an emotional experience. Kengo Kuma’s offering is housed in two consecutive darkened rooms; thin, delicate lengths of scented bamboo, woven together and illuminated from the bottom, create an ethereal fragrant forest.

Irish practice Grafton Architects and Chinese architect Li Xiaodong play with light and darkness in their installations. Li leads visitors through a dark maze made of hazel sticks, illuminated from underfoot by stark white panels. The white light creates an eerie sensation, like walking through the woods at night. Grafton Architects’ installation, designed to invoke pleasure through a transition from light to dark, plays with ceiling height and volume in an evocative way. Large-scale forms above head-height create various shadow and light effects that shift as visitors make their way through the gallery rooms.


Sensing Spaces is one of the largest architecture exhibitions the Academy has staged. The scale of the show is impressive, and the experience is a memorable one. Inviting visitors to take their time and reflect on their surroundings, it’s a reminder of the sensory qualities of the built environment and the power of spaces in evoking emotion.

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Conrad Bali

Ola Bednarczuk heads to Bali and discovers a holiday resort that’s as much about design as it is about relaxation and wellbeing. 


Situated on the south coast of Bali on the island’s very eastern tip, just outside the Nusa Dua enclave of resorts, the Conrad Bali feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations.

Set on 6.8 hectares and stretching alongside 350 metres of beach, the resort is a sprawling network of buildings surrounded by tropical gardens and lagoons. The stylised ‘rice terrace’ landscape is the work of landscape architects, Belt Collins.

Tranquil pools and clusters of lush Balinese and Javanese vegetation – coconut, frangipani and forest trees – break up stretches of open lawn. Beachside cabanas, made of the grass alang alang in the traditional Balinese style, dot the smooth yellow sand of the beach.


The buildings themselves are a mix of traditional and contemporary, incorporating subtle touches that remind visitors where they are rather than being overtly ‘exotic’ or typically ‘Bali’.

The interiors, including the guest rooms, suites, villas, restaurants and spa, were designed by Singapore-based firm LTW Designworks. In the public areas, dark stone floors are juxtaposed with timber and lighter shades for a contemporary but earthy, natural effect.

Locally sourced materials and hand-crafted objects are a key element of the interiors. Furniture, sculptures and artworks by local artisans feature heavily in the resort’s public spaces. In the guest rooms and suites, Balinese art and hand-crafted objects, such as soap dishes and woven head-boards, create a lovely element of surprise.


The striking entrance to the resort features a rotating exhibition showcasing the work of Balinese artists, or international artists who have a special connection with the island and are inspired by the beauty of its landscape and culture.

Design is so important to the Conrad Bali experience that visitors often ask for their favourite elements to be sourced or replicated. The Conrad works in collaboration with Sourcing Bali, a company dedicated to seeking out the best of Balinese art and craft and making it available to designers and visitors, to help guests take a piece of their Conrad experience home. Among the items that guests have been inspired to find and ship home are the beachside cabanas which dot the beach, and even the dark timber lobby floor; by all accounts a very special example of flooring which has been replicated a number of times in homes around the world!

It’s quite an experience to stay at a resort that’s more about pools, beaches and massages (although they do all that very well, too). The Conrad is also about getting in touch with your surroundings, experiencing the culture through the art of its local craftsmen – and maybe even taking a piece of it home with you.

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Yves Behar on Sustainability

On a whirlwind visit to Sydney as part of a promotional tour for his SAYL chair for Herman Miller, designer Yves Behar spoke to Ola Bednarczuk about sustainability and the responsibilities of the modern designer.


How does sustainability factor into your work?

I’m always out to prove an idea with a project – this notion that attainability and sustainability aren’t contrary ideas. People think that eco is more expensive, that green is more expensive, and I’m out to prove that it isn’t; that the two can be reconciled.

Sustainability is our opportunity to do things that are completely new, at a scale that is very large.

Are companies/the public receptive to the sustainable approach?

They’re receptive to it as an idea, but they never know how to go about it. This is why our role as designers is so critical, because we can show them the right steps and prove to the consumer that there is no sacrifice on their part; that it’s not more expensive; that it delivers a bigger experience; and we can prove to companies that it’s feasible.

I could never have convinced Puma to adopt the Clever Little Bag if it just meant putting a pretty bow around a box they already had. The only way they would change and accept to make such a radical internal change was if the project was compelling from a carbon footprint perspective.

It was one of those projects where you can change an entire logistic system and basically transform the way a company does something through sustainability.

Are designers equipped with sufficient knowledge to follow a sustainable approach?

Knowledge isn’t trying to match ISO 9002 where you have to check a few boxes and you’re there.

In every industry, with every material, with every type of process and size of production the solutions are going to be different, so your intentions and desires are what makes you equipped.

So if you’re willing to start to explore specifically how things can be solved, then you’re equipped, because you’re an explorer; you’re searching, you’re going to find solutions that nobody else has found before. And experience is the best way to solve these problems.

What does the future hold for sustainable design?

I believe that every process, every industrialised process, will need to be rethought in the next 20 years or so, and that means our opportunities as designers to participate at that scale is going to be amazing.

But – it has to be done well. People are not going to care until they have an experience that proves that it can be an enhancement, not something less.

That’s why part of what is so stimulating for me in design is that I can prove these ideas physically. What I can do is accelerate the adoption of these ideas by proving them to be correct, to be feasible, by translating ideas into action or into physical realities.

I think that’s what the world needs in the sense that people want proof; they want to experience ideas. Dogma is much harder to communicate to enterprise and the consumer.

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In Profile: Matt Chan

Emerging Australian architect Matt Chan speaks to Ola Bednarczuk about staying fresh and moving forward, in this conversation from 2011.chan_hero

Matt Chan of Scale Architecture was sitting in an empty office, ready to relocate and questioning which direction to take, when he got the call from the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) saying he’d won the 2011 Emerging Architects Prize.

“The award was timely,” Chan says. “You reach a crossroad after certain point. You ask yourself, which way am I supposed to go? How do I generate more business? How do you keep surviving? How do you stay fresh?”

The recognition was a boost for Chan during a time of reflection and transition, proof of peer recognition and his contribution to design through teaching, research and practice.

“That means more to me at this point than reaching a more obvious commercial success within the practice,” he says.

Scale combines project work, installations and teaching to stay creative and inspired – and to make opportunities in more quiet times.

“You have to be quick on your feet because things change around you – the economy changes, clients change their minds. You need to creatively think your way through.”

The term Emerging Architect is a tricky one for someone who’s been in the industry for a number of years – “it sort of means that you’re defined as much by what you haven’t done as by what you’ve done,” says Chan – but it also reflects the stage of growth that Scale Architecture is going through, and the future possibilities that the firm is presented with.

“I want to try to redefine what [Scale] is philosophically, what it means to the profession,” says Chan of his plans for the practice.

“I would rather do half a dozen projects in my life that mean something and are significant, than a whole bunch of projects that are substandard. And I think that’s the way I need to take – to make sure that those are all really important, well-regarded projects.”

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