Thursday, 16 April 2015


“I practise architecture for love,” says Hannah Tribe. “I love dreaming up buildings, I love multi-level strategic thinking, I love working with inspired clients and with my fantastic team of collaborators. And there are some days when I get to draw all day long. It's a treat.” Strong in art and maths at school, Hannah says going down the path of architecture seemed like a logical fit. She studied at the University of Sydney and at Cornell in upstate New York in the USA, and practised in NYC and Sydney before starting her own practice, Tribe, in 2003. Being in business since then has been an achievement in itself. “In architecture, we play a long game,” she says, adding that the focus has been on doing good work and thinking ambitiously. “The scale of our projects is trending steeply upwards, and we are a larger team, but the concerns and thinking can apply to a piece of joinery as to a large urban design,” Hannah says. “I am not driven by recognition and don't necessarily see it as a consequence of good work. I am driven to please my clients and to satisfy my inner critic-perfectionist.” As well as teaching at the University of Sydney, UNSW and UTS, Hannah has sat on various award juries as well as the Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter Council. See more of the Double Bay house project, above, here.

Which five words best describe you? I can’t answer this question!

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started Tribe Studio a bit by accident. I had decided I didn't want to be an architect and was concentrating on my painting and academic life, when commissions started coming in, and I found that I absolutely loved it. It's been equally unstrategic in its growth. We take on all scales of work, from hundreds of millions down to thousands. We choose our projects by client. We work for people who are interesting and interested in pursuing good work and we think about our residential projects as portraits of our clients.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I went to a Glenn Murcutt talk and he advised, “Start as you mean to continue.” This is great advice. Projects attract like projects, clients attract like clients so you need to make sure you are always proud of your work and enjoy it.

What’s your proudest career achievement? The completion of the next project. I am very forward-focussed and don't like to regard my past with pride.

What’s been your best decision? Not to slow my work down while making a family. My friend Megan said to me, “Managing - not balancing - work and family has been my best life decision.”

Who inspires you? Artists and writers, generally. Our work is so reactive. We are given a brief and a set of conditions and we generate our work in response to that. Artists and writers have to generate material completely autonomously. I am simultaneously envious and awed.

What are you passionate about? My family.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Yikes - too hard!

What dream do you still want to fulfil? So many. I have been so invigorated by the recent increase in the level of general public interest in design, and literacy about design. I feel like this is really galloping ahead in leaps and bounds in the interiors space, and would love to see the architectural and urban design conversation lift to the same level: where we could talk about the contribution of the individual building to the street, to the suburb, to the city. We could talk about the responsibility we have as builders and clients and designers to enrich the public spaces we live in, and how architecture, urban design and landscape design, and caring can do that. We could demand beauty and delight from our architecture, the way we do from our interiors. 

What are you reading? Arandhati Roy's Capitalism: A Ghost Story.

images courtesy of hannah tribe; photography katherine lu; portrait carine thevenau

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