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September 8, 2022

Timeless design in a modern world

While exploring the expansive virtual world on our phones can sometimes lead to inspiration, deeper design insights come from the real world, writes Studio Nine’s Claudia Marro.

  • This article was produced in collaboration with Studio Nine Architects.

It was only a year ago I was aimlessly scrolling Pinterest on my daily bus commute to uni as a final-year architecture student. With the hustle and bustle of the city passing me by, I naturally turned to the more appealing virtual world held in my hand.

By my commute’s end, I’d have a camera roll full of screenshots of the latest design trends, which I’d reference in my upcoming tutorial. Though the carefully curated images offered up plenty of aesthetic, I found myself at a loss for words when trying to articulate how a person might feel in these spaces.

Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook and Pinterest all steal our attention and influence our perceptions, thoughts and behaviours. Most of the time, we’re not even aware of it.

Just like consumerism fuels fast fashion, consumer culture has begun to spread into the design world. Take Architizer, for example, which, through joining TikTok earlier this year, is exploring a new creative avenue to engage its audience through curated videos. Is this the new way of experiencing the world of architecture?

The epiphany I had on that scrolling commute was you can only draw so much inspiration from a two-dimensional image. Relying so heavily on the picture-perfect photographs that flood our devices, we lose the ability to be inspired by being present and absorbing the world around us.

Good quality architecture can evoke certain emotions in people – it can impact how people experience places and live their lives. This is ultimately what drew me to the profession, and it’s a worldview I don’t want to lose.

Being mindful of our built environment was a less complicated endeavour for graduates 20 years ago. Without online platforms saturating the design sphere, the quest for inspiration must have been a more authentic experience. An architectural memory bank holding only snapshots of time in places they once stood. No digital screenshots of foreign places to refer back to.

Navigating through the digital design world has added an extra layer of complexity to our already all-embracing roles as architects. There lies a new challenge for young designers: filter through ‘what’s hot’ content and unlock timeless, sustainable and smart design solutions.

Since starting my first full-time role at Studio Nine Architects, my approach to design has been informed through purpose and intent. We break up the design process into three key phases: Curiosity, Insight and Craft.  We’re encouraged to be insightful and curious in our thinking, while simultaneously completing a rigorous design process to ensure each project is crafted to move in the optimal direction.


Learn more about Studio Nine Architects on their website.

This thinking was the catalyst for a recent project I was involved in through Studio Nine, designing a series of Yo-Chi frozen yogurt stores across the country. It was an incredible experience, allowing me to tap into a leadership role early in my career.

With Yo-Chi’s demographic being predominantly Gen Z, and part of the brief calling for something ‘Instagrammable’ (is this even an adjective?), we were conscious of our role to still deliver an authentic and sustainable design. 

Seeking inspiration for the Gouger Street store, I took a walk through the Central Market and thought about the arcade redevelopment that is soon to commence. To me, the upcoming project demonstrates how materiality is used to elevate and uplift, while maintaining the market’s existing heritage and surrounding context. 

While there are no visual or materiality parameters tying each individual Yo-Chi store together, the brief centres around the positive energy (chi) that each space provides. The common thread amongst all stores is their ability to seamlessly exist within its unique context and culture. 

Each store design is bespoke, sourcing textures that fit its surrounding environment. The recently opened Noosa store has a tropical ambience, with foliage and an abundance of natural daylight. Similarly, the upcoming King Street Yo-Chi in Newtown, Sydney, will exude an eclectic atmosphere, revelling in its retro and mildly grungy tone. 

It’s about timeless design – underpinned by how the user feels in a space – and ensuring the visual component is authentic and purposeful. If designed with sustainability in mind, a project will not require constant reinvention as time passes by. Design that aims to be in harmony with its context and not compete with the surroundings is truly timeless.

My understanding of this has come from continual learning and evolution, and being open to different possibilities.

Pivotal in helping inform my decisions as a young designer is She Creates, a group that inspires, connects and empowers women in Adelaide’s creative communications industry.

These female figures can be lacking in our day to day as architects, so it’s refreshing to hear from people like Emma Williamson, co-founder of CODA Studio, who acknowledges the importance of mentorship and relatability in career development. Being surrounded by some of South Australia’s finest female creatives has sparked my interest in other facets of design and showed me the importance of continuously engaging in the different areas of the design world.

The virtual world around us is all consuming, but let’s start looking up again. You never know what opportunities are passing you by.



Claudia Marro is a Graduate of Architecture at Studio Nine Architects. She has been part of the S9 team since the early years of her Bachelor’s degree.
Her role within the studio has given her a jump start in her career, developing her skills and working alongside senior staff on projects across a variety of sectors.

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