“Let’s talk about why we’re here. Our architecture practice received 40 enquires in the first six months of this year, and the majority of those were for projects under $500,000. We loved 90% of the potential clients we spoke to but ended up working with none of them. Why? Architects require between 10% – 20% of the overall budget to deliver a custom-built project and the majority of people we spoke with simply couldn’t afford us. New Resident is our response to this issue. It’s about delivering our best work, to the people who need it, at a price we know they can afford.”

And so began DesignFreo Conversation05, an evening with Kate Fitzgerald, a Fremantle-based architect intent on reshaping the way we think about housing through her architectural studio, Whispering Smith and sustainable development company, New Resident. Warmed with wine from Old Bridge Cellars and party pies from Little Loaf, our audience were primed to hear what Kate had to say. 

A report delivered in 2019 suggested that Perth has the longest suburban sprawl in the world, describing it as ‘a design disaster and failure of modern development’[1]. Infill and medium density development are essential to ensuring a more sustainable future for our city, however, many people fear what this means for the character and identity of their suburbs – and with good reason, given the poor quality of much development in Perth. 

Kate was frank in her assessment of existing suburban development in Perth, stating that she ‘understands at an economic and planning policy level why housing in Perth sucks’. Using satellite imagery to make her point, Kate showed what happens under current residential planning codes when existing homes are demolished and blocks are sub-divided. Monotonous, villa-style developments replace character, and battle-axe blocks become the norm in a treeless, paved landscape. 

‘If we keep going the way we’re going, over 50% of Perth’s tree canopy will be destroyed within 15 years in urban infill areas.’

Kate’s slide: what in-fill looks like under the current Residential Planning Codes – trees razed to the ground and replaced by wall-to-wall boxes surrounded by hard paving.

What might save us from this hellfire? Enter WA’s new Medium Density Policy. Currently in draft form, DesignWA, under the auspices of the State Government, has revamped the Planning Codes to place good design, neighbourliness and sustainability at the heart of all new medium density developments. According to David Caddy, Chair of the WA Planning Commission, the key motivation of the new policy is to improve quality of life for individuals and communities across the state.[2]

Kate used the work of Whispering Smith to demonstrate the potential of the new policy. House A, B and C in Scarborough prove that it’s possible to build sustainable, affordable and beautiful homes within a suburban infill setting. New Resident goes one step further through its mission to ‘upend the WA property market with affordable, sustainable, architect designed house and land packages.’

House A: a modest, concrete one-bedroom loft house in Scarborough and Kate’s first development. Orientated to the north, allowing doors to be opened to the sunshine at least nine months of the year, and built using affordable and unpretentious materials.

There were a huge number of take-aways from Kate’s talk, and we know a lot of people have been thinking about it ever since.

First, the soulless streetscape that makes up many of our suburbs is largely driven by the existing residential codes. Kate pointed out that for decades, developers and building designers have not been building homes but designing to numerical tables in a policy document. Fortunately, the Government is addressing the inadequacies current policy with the new DesignWA Medium Density policy.

Second, as individuals, we need to think differently about the sorts of houses we want to live in. The time has come to accept a new language for small to medium sized dwellings – to stop trying to make our homes feel like ‘high-end palaces’ – and instead embrace quality of space, good materials and amenity over size. 

We can’t wait to see where Kate takes these ideas next. 


[2] https://aca.org.au/medium-density-symposium-recap/

[1] https://nowhereandeverywhere.co/change/longest-suburban-sprawl-world/

The Fremantle Traffic Bridge is set to be replaced under Main Roads’ Swan River Crossings Project. As a community, we are concerned about the location and design quality of this critical piece of infrastructure. We are updating this page progressively as the project develops.

DesignFreo is hosting a panel discussion on the evening of Monday 31 May – details and registration here!

UPDATE // 11 May 2021 / Alignment options presented for feedback

In response to community feedback, Main Roads has released 4 alignment options for the new Swan River Crossings traffic and rail bridges. Details on each of these options – pictured below – can be found on the Main Roads website here. An interactive tool allows you to visualise each option from different perspectives.

Main Roads is hosting a series of pop-up and online info sessions where you can ask questions and give feedback – see table below. The last is on May 22, so there is only a small window of opportunity to provide comment.

An online survey is open until June 1. We strongly encourage you to respond, as this is going to inform the decision-making.

The four alignment options are:

  1. Option 1 – between the bridges with 2 rail tracks
  2. Option 2 – between the bridges with 1 rail track track
  3. Option 3 – to the east with 2 rail tracks (as presented last year)
  4. Option 4 – where the current bridge is with 2 x rail tracks

The Main Roads presentation to the invited Community Forum, which DesignFreo attended on May 11, is here. It contains the most recent information on the status of the project and the alignment options.

What we know to date

Since our inaugural event ‘Old Bridge, New Bridge’ almost a year ago, DesignFreo has closely followed the evolution of the Swan River Crossings Project. Our bridge champion, Layla Saleeba, has attended all of Main Roads’ invited Community Forums on behalf of DesignFreo (thank you, Layla!) and her summary is posted below.

We are pleased that Main Roads has responded to the call for more options. We encourage you to have your say on this critical issue for our city and its future.

DesignFreo is seeking a good design solution that respects the river and its health and the Indigenous significance of the waterway and surrounding precinct. We want quality urban design that prioritises pedestrians and cyclists. Layla’s insights below are followed by the summary of our first event – a reminder of the outcomes we are seeking from this project.

We are hosting a follow-up event on Monday 31 May. We are finalising the venue – registration and event details will be uploaded asap!

Summary of the three Forums 

The replacement of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge is an extremely complex project that must reconcile technical, environmental, financial and social challenges.  

There are multiple competing interests. It is close to homes, local businesses and industry. There are State and Indigenous heritage considerations. The bridges have to integrate multiple modes of transport – cars, bikes, pedestrians, passenger trains, freight trains and boats – and (we hope) serve our community for the next 100 years. 

Here are some of the key questions which have been discussed at the three Forums.

What’s wrong with the existing Fremantle Traffic Bridge? 

After standing for over 80 years, the existing timber traffic bridge has greatly deteriorated. It has high maintenance costs, multiple marine navigation issues, doesn’t meet current design standards for road lanes and, as we can all attest, has a poor pedestrian / cycle pathway. 

Deterioration: There are many issues with the durability and structural capacity of the substructure and the superstructure. Due to deterioration, timber elements of the bridge have, over time, been replaced or strengthened with steel and concrete. Main Roads engineers suggest that ongoing maintenance will not extend the life of the deteriorating timber.  

Restoring the timber like-for-like will not meet current bridge design standards and durability requirements. Moreover, the jarrah needed for the piles is difficult to get and not environmentally sustainable. 

Maintenance Costs: Main Roads stated that in the last 5 years, $23M has been spent on specific works necessary to strengthen the bridge and $400K per year on routine maintenance. 

Navigation: The bridge has the lowest clearance and narrowest navigation spans of all the Swan River bridges up to the Causeway, which limits the size of vessels that can pass beneath it. Additionally, the piers under the rail and road bridges do not align with each other, making navigation difficult and significantly increasing the risk of vessel impact and possible damage. 

Pedestrian / PSP (Principal Shared Path): There is currently no PSP and the existing pedestrian path is in poor condition, too narrow and the balustrade is too low.  

To Main Roads credit, the explanations given around these issues (see here) have been extensive and detailed. After much discussion and hard questioning from Fremantle community members over multiple Forums, the majority of Forum participants have accepted the need for a new traffic bridge. 

Read more the condition of the bridge via the Main Roads Forum Summary here.

What will the new bridges look like and who is designing them? 

As yet no designs have been presented. All discussions and presentations to date have been purely around the alignment of the bridges. 

Contractors Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction, Arup Australia and WSP Australia were appointed in February to form Alliance with Main Roads to work on the final alignment and to design and construct the bridges. 

Main Roads has provided a timeline of the project stating that until June we are still in the ‘Alignment Options Assessment’ phase. ‘Design Development’ will begin in June, with ‘Detailed Design and Pre-Construction’ scheduled from September through to December.  

What we do know is that the new traffic bridge will be ‘like for like’ in that it will have 2 lanes in each direction, with the addition of a median strip, and will incorporate a PSP (Principal Shared Path) for walking and riding and a dedicated pedestrian-only path. It will also in some way incorporate Indigenous acknowledgment, Heritage Listing acknowledgment and urban landscaping. 

DesignFreo sees this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design a bridge that demonstrates excellence in design, creates a sense of place and is a memorable gateway experience for road, rail, walking, cycling and boating.  

We seek a broader urban design outcome with increased connectivity to the foreshores and uninterrupted connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists.

Why a new rail bridge? 

The existing Fremantle Rail Bridge has two rail lines, one travelling south and one travelling north. These are currently shared by passenger and freight services. Passenger services take priority and hence freight is restricted from using the bridge during peak passenger times (6am-9am and 3pm-6.30pm), with a second priority being maintenance that occurs at night. 

The restriction limits capacity, yet the State Government has targeted 30% of containers to be handled by freight, to reduce freight vehicles on roads.  

To meet this need, the Swan River Crossings Project is incorporating a new passenger rail bridge. This will separate freight and passenger rail lines and accommodate increased future capacity for both. 

While a reduction in the number of freight trucks on the roads is welcomed in terms of noise, pollution and congestion (especially for those of us who live and travel around the port, Tydeman Road, Stirling Bridge and up to High St) there were questions around the need for a dedicated freight line given the impending move of the port to Kwinana. 

Main Roads, Westport and representatives of the port were adamant that the transition of the port to Kwinana is unlikely to happen until 2045. This being the case, existing rail capacity will be insufficient and the number of trucks on roads will greatly increase. 

DesignFreo’s stance on this = we need to all stop consuming so much and buy local! 

Read more on the rail line via the Main Roads Community Forum Summary here.

Is Aboriginal heritage being acknowledged? 

Main Roads has advised that they have engaged with Noongar Elders to understand the project area’s significant heritage and cultural context, including unique stories of place, so that these can be reflected and acknowledged in the design of the new crossings and landscape. 

At the Community Forum on 11 May, Aboriginal Elder Farley Garrett reiterated the importance of the sacred site and an interest in further acknowledging reconciliation and therefore both the European and Aboriginal heritage of the crossing.  

In Indigenous culture it is believed that the Waugal, or Rainbow Serpent, travels up and down the river and that the Waugal’s flow is impeded by the multiple pylons of the old timber bridge. As such, removing the existing bridge and ensuring that any new structures have minimal pylons is welcomed. 

DesignFreo believes that acknowledgement and interpretation is not just about an artistic gesture. It requires a deep recognition of the river as a living, spiritual thing that we should respect, repair and care for. The health of the river should be a primary design driver. 

How is the Heritage Listing of the Old Bridge being acknowledged? 

The bridge is on the State Heritage List and the State Register. We are told that Main Roads/ the Alliance is working closely with the Heritage Council of WA and have engaged a heritage consultant. 

In the original alignment presented by Main Roads in August last year, and in Alignment Options 1, 2 and 3 released this week, a remnant of approximately 19 m of the old bridge has been retained on the southern side to acknowledge its heritage significance.  

Interestingly, we were told at the Forum on May 11 that the Heritage Council deems a new bridge that follows the exact alignment of the existing bridge (ie Option 4) to be a more meaningful acknowledgment of heritage than leaving a remnant. 

Several ideas were floated at Forums. The jarrah from the old bridge could be used to create a fishing jetty or a sculpture in the precinct. Perhaps the Heritage-listed Ferry Capstan Base, a rare surviving example of the technology used to haul river vessels in the nineteenth century and currently hidden under vegetation, could be meaningfully presented? 

DesignFreo suggests that we can be much more creative in acknowledging the Heritage listing than retaining a remnant, or ’stump’ as we have nicknamed it! 

If a ’stump’ is to be retained, it should be part of an alignment option supporting further activation of N Worrall Park and the public space around East Street Jetty and opposite the Naval Store. Which then begs the question, who will be responsible for its activation and maintenance?  

How long will it take to build, and what will the disruption be? 

It goes without saying that there will be major disruption during construction regardless of the chosen alignment option.  

Certainly, in analysing the options, we need to be aware of the impact that the construction will have on the community. Not only in terms of traffic delays and detours, but the impact on local business, particularly in North Fremantle where business relies on passing traffic. 

Sadly, these businesses will be affected to some degree. We need to evaluate the options in terms of the length of disruption, and possible mitigations, during the construction phase. 

Options 1 & 2 see the existing traffic bridge reduced to one lane each way then closed entirely for a relatively short period, yet the construction of these options is more complex and longer, with an expected end date in late 2025. 

Options 3 & 4 are less complex, with construction ending in late 2024. 

Option 4 positions the new traffic bridge exactly in place of the old, requiring the old bridge to be demolished and closed completely. Not ideal for impact on traffic, but it does mean a shorter construction period.

Perhaps there are opportunities to mitigate the impact by specific marketing campaigns promoting North Fremantle as a destination; and equally dedicated campaigns for the city centre of Fremantle. Perhaps during construction, regardless of alignment, there is the opportunity to petition for a ferry service from Fremantle to Perth. Perhaps a barge for pedestrians from the northern foreshore to the southern? 

Lastly, something to note: 

Option 3 is the original option Main Roads presented last year, with the new traffic bridge to the east of the existing one. It is the option that sparked protest and the Better Bridges ‘Build West’ campaign. 

This eastern alignment increases the total footprint of the infrastructure, causing significant loss of green space and connectivity to the river on both the north and south sides. It takes the entry to Fremantle further east, with a rudimentary junction on the southern end butted up to the Naval Store (also Heritage listed). 

The eastern alignment also leaves the remnant of the existing bridge (‘the stump’) in between the traffic and the rail bridge, making access and meaningful activation difficult and begging the question, what will be its usability?  

‘I think design has the opportunity here to be a lot bolder and if anywhere can do it it should be Fremantle’

Russell Kingdom, DesignFreo Conversation 01, July 30

Below is the summary of the first conversation we had around this project in July last year, which set a framework for community expectations.

DesignFreo Conversation01 / 30 July, Tannock Hall

A big thank you to all who attended DesignFreo Conversation 01: Old Bridge / New Bridge, for what was a lively and insightful discussion. A great panel and engaged audience came together to explore the questions we need to be asking Main Roads to ensure we get a bridge that serves people and place as well as cars.

With numbers limited due to Covid restrictions, the event was sold out and many were disappointed. We’re pleased to provide here a full video for all to view. Please share!

Panel members and time codes:

  • Meri Fatin, facilitator – introduction (7:10)
  • Rebecca Clarkson, Community Development Expert and instigator of the change.org campaign to retain the old bridge as a public space (9:36)
  • Russell Kingdom, Urban Designer (Manager City Design and Projects, City of Fremantle) (14:09)
  • Brendan Moore, Aboriginal Engagement Officer, City of Fremantle (20:14)
  • The Honorable Simone McGurk MLA, Member for Fremantle (26.32)
  • Dr Anthony Duckworth, Research Fellow, Australian Urban Design Research Centre (38.30)
  • Panel discussion and audience Q&A (46.20)

A summary of Conversation 01

With no information available from Main Roads, the discussion on July 30 at Tannock Hall focused on exploring what would constitute a good design outcome. 

Our panel of experts shared their knowledge and perspectives, emphasising the critical role of community consultation as part of the design process. The conversation provided a framework for the questions that need to be asked now that consultation is open.

The common thread was the importance of a connected public realm that serves more than just cars. Recognising and respecting the significance of the Derbarl Yirragan (the Swan River) and Dwerda Weeardinup (Cantonment Hill) to the Whadjuk Noongar people should inform the design outcome.

Rebecca Clarkson provided a compelling argument for retaining the existing bridge as a public space, in a similar vein to New York’s acclaimed High Line. In a first for WA, the old bridge would become a green space for pedestrians and cyclists, allowing safe movement between north and south and a new way to enjoy the port and river. Rebecca’s campaign to retain the old bridge is on change.org here.

Russell Kingdom confirmed that retaining as much of the existing bridge as possible was the Council’s default position, however the complete lack of data from Main Roads made any assessment of the options impossible. Access to the foreshore needs to be improved as part of the project.

Brendan Moore relayed the significance of the Derbarl Yirragan and Dwerda Weeardinup as Aboriginal sites, recognising the historical distinction between Yellagonga’s north and Midgegooroo’s south. He  emphasised that the river is to be enjoyed and cared for, noting the belief that the pylons of the current bridge impede the flow of the Waugal.

Anthony Duckworth-Smith reiterated the importance of the public realm, suggesting that dignity and generosity towards people should be given precedence over vehicles. The existing conditions are hostile to pedestrians and cyclists – a holistic approach to the entire precinct is critical.

‘It doesn’t need to be something heroic – simply to make it incredibly well connected and a dignified experience might be enough, and say Freo more than anything’

Anthony Duckworth

Simone McGurk reiterated that the lack of information from Main Roads was inflaming community concern, making any specific discussion around the design impossible. She committed to doing whatever she can to ensure that the community’s voice is heard in the design of the new bridge.

We gratefully acknowledge the time and insights of all panellists and thank Meri Fatin for a great job in facilitating the conversation. Thanks to The School of Arts and Sciences at The University of Notre Dame for the video, and event partners the Fremantle School of Architecture and the Old Bridge Cellars.

The recent ‘Tent City’ crisis at Fremantle’s Pioneer Park brought to attention the acute lack of emergency and long-term housing for the homeless in this State. Long before the story hit the front page of The West, architect Michelle Blakeley set out to address the issue. ‘My Home’ is a philanthropic development company that combines private funding, unused government land and good, sustainable design. Emma Brain sat down in conversation with Michelle to learn more about this ambitious project. 

This is a brave thing to take on, Michelle. How did you get involved?

It started with an ArchitectureAU article about Launch Housing getting together to build houses for homeless people on road reserve land in Melbourne. Vic Roads had leased the land at a peppercorn lease. Geoff Harris, the founder of Flight Centre, contributed $5m for construction and the result was 57 houses. I thought it was such a simple, sensible idea. Government has lots of vacant land and it doesn’t involve asking the government for money.  

Two hours later, I am walking down William Street, Northbridge, to a meeting in the city and was so aware of the number of homeless people curled up in the doorways of empty shops. I came back from my meeting and sent an email to Geoff Warn, as State Government Architect, asking if we could meet to discuss the idea. I thought he might be helpful in introducing me to government department heads. That was two and a half years ago.

Who will live in the houses once they’re finished?

The houses are for homeless people or those at risk of homelessness. “My Home” is a philanthropic developer. Once we have built the houses, a Community Housing Provider (CHP) takes on the management of the property and the tenants. They select the tenants on a needs’ basis.  “My Home” and the CHP work with Housing First principles: if a person has a safe, secure, permanent home then the delivery of support services is much easier, and the person has a much greater chance of regaining independence and an improved quality of life. 

Colour render of a ‘My Home’ house

Global precedents show that Housing First has an 80% success rate i.e. people don’t regress back to homelessness. Statistics also show that visits to emergency medical centres and other crisis services are dramatically reduced as well as significantly less involvement with the justice system.

The usual practice for placing people into social housing requires them to clean up their act i.e. stop drinking or using drugs and when a house becomes available, they must take it or miss out, regardless of where it is located. With Housing First, there are no pre-conditions, the tenant chooses where they want to live, the homes are in residential areas and there are wrap-round support services which is key to success. The CHP has outreach workers who have ongoing contact with each tenant. The tenants enter a standard rental agreement and the rent is about 25% of their income, which is usually their social security benefit payment.

What has been the benefit of having an architect involved in the project from the outset?

Huge benefit! Because we had to build a very cost-efficient house, I brought together the project manager, structural engineer, pre-fabricator and four builders very early in the design process. We had several think-tanks. 

The starting point was my designs for small single bedroom houses, and together we arrived at the most cost-efficient model, without reducing the design to a bland box. I was able to determine what was worth retaining for the comfort and joy of the living space. For example, the builders pointed out that we could just about halve the cost of the glazed French doors that I had opening from the living space to the verandah if it was a single glazed door with a side window. I can accept that sort of compromise. There is always compromise in any project. 

If the architect is present from the outset, then the architect can manage the compromises and retain the integrity of the design.

Tell us about the houses? What design features have you used to mitigate their modest size?

The houses are 31m2 with a 11m2 verandah across the front facade. There is a living area with kitchen, bedroom and a bathroom with washing machine and dryer. My key design driver was to create a house that the resident would enjoy coming home to, not just because it is safe and secure and protects from the weather, but also because it is a welcoming, joyful and embracing. 

The footprint is small, but the house doesn’t feel small. The model we are now working with has a raked ceiling up to 3.2m which gives a much greater sensation of spaciousness, further emphasised because the wall between the living area and bedroom is only to door height so you are seeing much more space above and around you. There is only one internal door, to the bathroom. Circulation space around the bed and in the bathroom and door sizes are to Liveable Homes Gold Standard. 

Michelle Blakeley with Jim DeBaughn (Highbury Homes) and Brian Hancock (Rotary)

We have built a demonstration house in the yard of Offsite, the pre-fabricator. Invariably, visitors are surprised at how big the house is. We have had several people asking if they can purchase a house for a weekender or holiday home.

The houses are designed and built to Passivhaus principles with timber framing, UPVC windows, double glazing, very good insulation and an air exchange system. There is no air-conditioning, virtually no thermal bridging, the double glazing and insulation also perform as acoustic attenuation, as does the rainwater tank which is always on the side closest to the road or railway.

Solar panels act as the roof for the verandah, they don’t sit on a roof, they are the roof. With each site, we can change the external cladding and colour palette to suit the surrounding houses.

How did you select the sites where the homes will be located? Has there been any pushback from locals?

We have not selected the location of our sites. We asked the WAPC for sites, gave them a brief, and they came with five sites initially. For various reasons, we now have two sites which will proceed, in North Fremantle and Victoria Park. Both are ideal locations for us: close to public transport, in a residential area, close to retail precincts and smallish in size. We don’t want enclaves housing homeless people. We want to integrate the houses into the community, we want people to walk past the houses and think they are private group dwellings.

North Fremantle will have 18 houses which as many as we would want on one lot. Victoria Park is a standard quarter acre block and has five houses. We are also in discussion with the Churches about land around Perth. WAPC has said that once we prove the model on the first site, they will offer more land.

I think we were spoiled having North Fremantle as our first site. There is a strong progressive community spirit in Fremantle. The development was published asking for public comment and we had no objections. Other sites have had push back from the local residents, typically a NIMBY response.

We like to end our interviews at DF by asking three quick questions related to our two favourite subjects, design and Fremantle!

What does the phrase Design Matters mean to you?

Design adds sensuality to an object: visual, audio, aural, touch, smell. Without design there would be no experience of the object. It would just be.

What design object brings you the most joy and why?

A thoughtfully designed functional object. I love that Philippe Starck can transform a citrus juicer into an object of incredible finesse. I love that Jony Ive designed such tactile objects for Apple.

Tell us something that you love about Freo.

I love the steel giraffes stretching above the harbour.

Published 28 January 2021

the centuries are sprinkled 

with rare magic

with divine creatures

who help us get past the

common 

and

extraordinary ills

that beset us. 

A verse from ‘Closing Time’ by Charles Bukowski, read at Brian Klopper’s funeral by his daughter, Abigail.

Growing up in Fremantle, the name Brian Klopper attained an almost mythical status in my mind. I’d be driving with my mum and she would point out his various projects around town; we even lived in houses he designed, first on Attfield Street and then briefly on Raphael Street in Subiaco.  

I’m sure it was through the work of Brian Klopper that I first learnt what an architect is.

My father and I outside 64B Attfield Street, Fremantle. Circa 1988.

Fast forward 30 plus years and I found myself in in the wheat belt with my partner and new baby. We had set off north-east on our first family holiday and our day ended with a drink at Laura’s, the wine bar Klopper created in Northam. Brian was serving and recognised that we were from Fremantle. He sat with us and one drink quickly became two. Later, he invited us to base our borrowed caravan in the empty block next to his own beautiful and modest home – a much better option than the local trailer park!

That weekend now occupies a magical place in my memory. My time with Brian marries with the stories that emerged at his recent funeral, where those who knew and loved him spoke of his kindness, generosity, wit and genuine interest in the lives of others. His long-time colleague, Michael Richardson, described the culture of conversation and curiosity brought to his studio by Klopper – chatter not limited to design but extending to whatever Brian was thinking about on a particular day. 

It was good to hear these warm reflections on a man who has contributed so much to our urban streetscape. To me, his seemingly hand-crafted projects, mostly in recycled brick, sit as comfortably on the streets of Fremantle as turn-of-the-century cottages, and the arched facades beloved of our European community.

Brian’s work makes a unique contribution to the eclecticism that defines Fremantle and continues to distinguish us from the homogeneity of surrounding suburbs. 

In his eulogy, Richardson suggested that it was Klopper who first used the phrase, ‘to touch the ground lightly’ in an architectural context, as the article linked below seems to validate. Indeed, my experience of his buildings is that they do just that. I didn’t realise it at the time, but our home on Attfield Street was a delight to be in as a child. The mezzanine bedrooms, whilst lacking privacy, gave the house a feeling of openness and freedom that I’ve not found in a residence since. 

My partner and I had always intended to visit Brian again in Northam and I’m very sorry that we didn’t get there in time. But through my brief contact with him, and the words of those who knew him best, I am reminded of what it takes to live a good life. Beyond the legacy that he leaves through his architecture, Brian will be remembered for being kind, funny, a great conversationalist and for his delight in connecting with others. 

Emma Brain

Read more on Brian Klopper’s work and life here.

In our (totally biased) opinion, Fremantle is home to Perth’s most interesting retail experiences. With Christmas just around the corner, we thought it was the ideal time to start sharing our favourites with you. For obvious reasons, we kick off the series chatting to Jayden Weston, owner and chief curator at Compendium Design Store!

What made you decide to open a design store in Fremantle?

Ten years ago now (!!) – right in the GFC – we were juggling a couple of little ideas, doing the rounds around the Perth arts and crafts fairs with our handmade wares, selling a little bit online etc. I pretty was keen to move from full time graphic design work to my own business, whatever that might be. Something ideally that still allowed me to design a little bit but also to explore other stuff, and learn about business.

One day a chance encounter with a local fashion designer on High Street resulted in us renting the back of her shop for a six month popup selling some of the goods we were making. We kind of didn’t have enough stock to fill it and make it look nice, so we bought in some stock from some brands we admired which we’d seen online, and some of our favourites from around town. We had some greeting cards, cardboard taxidermy, textiles and a couple of leather wallets from another brand just starting up, Bellroy. 

At the end of the six months we had the opportunity to move next door into the shop Kartique were using (thanks Mel and Irene!). One thing led to another and that turned into Compendium. So you could say a little bit by accident and a little bit by sheer determination (stubbornness) to not have to have an actual job and full control over my schedule. For some reason I thought working way more hours for way less money was a better option, ha!

You’ve spent a fair bit of time travelling between the US and Freo the past couple of years, while running your shop. Has this experience influenced the way in which you operate and the kind of products you stock?

I’ve definitely been lucky and had the opportunity to visit heaps and heaps of places, and I am always schlepping around high streets, retail fairs and markets looking for cool people doing cool stuff. I do get to take advantage from my trips and get products from the US, having met and made friends with some great designers and little brands, especially from the Pacific Northwest Seattle/Portland area. (Portland is basically just a giant Freo – sans beach of course). Spotting trends and how other little shops do things here and there has been the best bit, and I think is helpful for keeping me inspired, motivated and keeping the shop fresh. 

From travelling I’ve got to witness how independent retail and hospo businesses manage to maintain a unique and local feel, a strong sense of place. I love that about a lot of small brick and mortar businesses in the States and I try to learn from that. Freo is amazing, and Compendium should be a part of it, reflect it and celebrate it.

It’s a little sad to see the selection of little shops depleting more and more, and with the pandemic seeing how the ones who are surviving are adapting with a major shift online and to other initiatives like contactless and curbside pickup is really interesting. At the end of the day it’s kind of humbling to be reminded how good we have it here, with a relatively thriving high street shopping culture, where online still compliments a genuine and interesting real life shopping experience – where the market doesn’t necessarily expect something delivered for free instantly by an Amazon drone.

At DF, we use the phrase ‘design matters’ in our by-line and we’re always muttering it wherever we go. What does the phrase ‘design matters’ mean to you?

It’s the difference between half-assing it and doing something worthwhile. Doing the homework, and the planning. Something that will last. Something that’s spot on. It’s problem solving – a bit like buying the perfect gift. See what I did there?

Design is many things but these days I find it informing heaps of what I do. How can I make this process easier? How can this thing we do in the shop be more efficient? What the heck are we going to put in the window? It’s everywhere and having a process is a bit like being armed to make good decisions. 

Three quick questions….

What’s your favourite product in your shop?

At the moment it would be the new Freo Goods Co range. It’s been really nice to make our own stuff again, or overseeing it I should say – we’re working with some designers way more talented than me and I’m really excited where it’s going and the Freo inspired work they’re coming up with. 

If money were no object, what design object would you buy yourself for Christmas?

An airfare. To anywhere.

Tell us your favourite thing about Fremantle?

Definitely the West End. That tight-knit, village-like atmosphere on a sunny brisk morning, when everyone is chirpy and in a good mood, waving hello to all the neighbors as I get my coffee and there’s a procession of regulars popping in to see what’s new or just to say g’day.

Visit Compendium Design Store at 49A High Street, Fremantle (next to Cafe 55 and just up the road from New Edition!)

Emma Brain

One of our ambitions for DesignFreo is that none of our events feel the same. Our launch event took place in the slightly weird COVID-reactive surrounds of NDU’s Tannock Hall. What that event lacked in atmosphere, it made up for in substance, fulfilling our remit to engage with design matters that affect us all. 

Conversation #2 couldn’t have felt more different – an intimate event in a furniture making workshop in semi-industrial outer Fremantle. Joining us in conversation were furniture maker Angus McBride, of Remington Matters, Gabrielle Scott of Gabrielle Scott Studio and DF Chair, Pippa Hurst. We invited Angus and Gabi to discuss their individual practices, joint collaborations, and accessible ways in which we can all dip into good, local design. 

Gabi kicked the evening off, describing her passion for the place in which she lives and works and her ‘accidental’ expertise in hospitality projects. She defines the offering of her studio – from styling through to full interior services – as broad and exciting, striving to create interiors that are ageless and welcoming to all.

My favourite part was the story of her own home renovation. Gabi and her husband own a classic 60’s Italian ‘palace’, which they have been restoring slowly using Gabi’s eye and the fruits of Gumtree. Houses in this style are integral to the character of Fremantle’s domestic streetscape but are too often maligned and viewed as a knock-over job. I’m glad this one’s safe in their hands. 

Angus spoke about his shift from studying architecture to becoming the Perth-based director of Remington Matters (RM). Describing himself as a ‘glam version of a chippy’, Angus leads a team making some of Perth’s most beautiful furniture and lighting. RM contributes to both domestic and commercial projects and collaborates with our favourite local designers.

Angus and Gabi spoke at length about their collaboration on The Raft, Perth’s new floating events space currently parked at Elizabeth Quay. Keen to avoid anything overtly nautical, Gabi devised a sophisticated scheme that lightly nods to its maritime context, whilst RM provided a range of elegant furniture that will withstand the harsh environment. Together they have created a space that is both robust and beautiful.

Gabi says that what she likes most about working with Angus and the team at RM is their flexibility – they have a keen eye for design but are willing to give anything a go. As well as providing bespoke solutions to individual projects, RM has just launched their first range of made-to-order furniture. If you’re anything like the DesignFreo team, you’re going to spend the next 6 months ruminating over which piece to buy first. 

We’d like to thank all of you who ventured out to an untested location on a chilly night. Conversation #2 exceeded our expectations, both in the generosity of our speakers and the way the audience connected with what they had to say. DesignFreo is here to build meaningful connections between designers, makers and the general public. We’ll be hosting more of these conversations in the near future – join our mailing list if you haven’t done so already!

Emma Brain
Photography by Dean Smith

This event would not have been possible without the support of:

+ Grainchanger Mobile Pizza Catering for the supply of the most delicious gluten-free pizza.

+ Old Bridge Cellars for keeping our drinks flowing.

+ TheFulcrum.Agency for the PA system.

+ ICS Australia for their ongoing support as our Principal Sponsor.

One of the things we love most about Fremantle is the myriad of talent beavering away behind closed doors. In central Freo, around the High and Market Street junction, there’s a concentration of creatives working above street level and its our mission to bring their work to you. 

Harriette Gordon occupies a space in one of our favourite buildings, the poetically named Princess Chambers, where she designs and makes beautiful wedding dresses. The author of this note (who shall remain nameless) has spent considerable time in the study of bridal attire and can assure you that there is nothing quite like Harriette’s work on the market. 

Harriette’s second collection was launched this week and is entitled Sonnet XVII, a nod to Pablo Neruda’s poem of the same name. The dresses are elegant but modern, and with just a touch of play. Whilst each dress seems to possess its own temperament, the collection is linked by a feeling of movement and strong sense of romanticism.

Harriette says that if this collection was a song it would be ‘Didn’t I’ by Darondo. 

We love that Harriette is embracing a sustainable approach to her work by aiming to minimise fabric waste and repurpose remnants where possible. We also love her sense of collaboration and passion for Fremantle. In an email to us she wrote, ‘Fremantle really is the best place to live.’ 

Her latest photo shoot took place in the Princess Theatre, a beautiful remnant of Fremantle’s past. Working with her and photographer Liz Looker on the shoot were Gabrielle Scott and Anna Lucinda Baxter, DesignFreo faithfuls and creatives in their own right. We hope you enjoy these images as much as we did. 

Now someone just buy me a ring. 

See Harriette’s range featured on The Lane

With masks, as with everything in life, design matters. Freo expat Cameron Hurst reports from an extended lockdown in Melbourne on balancing comfort, form and function.

In Fremantle, masks are a little bit like shoes. Freo people wear them a lot less than people in other parts of the world. Of course, getting sandy feet and catching coronavirus are not equivalent.

I’m writing this from Narrm/ Melbourne as a Freo expatriate, and I bloody hope that WA can continue on safely without masks. However, Covid isn’t disappearing any time soon. Being prepared is important. And being prepared means thinking about design.

As a design object, masks have had a pretty crazy 2020. There aren’t many instances in history where a garment goes from niche personal choice to mandated global ubiquity over the course of a season. I’ve got a few months of experience guinea-pigging as a regular mask-user now, and I’ll tell you this: not all masks are equal.

My friend Will’s pandemic birthday

The truism of good design is that it marries form with function. First and foremost, masks have got to work. Masks stop the spread of coronavirus by protecting the wearer and people they come into contact with by blocking potentially infectious droplets. Gross, I know. In order for a mask to be effective in limiting the spread of the virus, there are key functional specifications that are crucial.

If you wear a surgical mask, it must be binned after use. In Fremantle, land of not just one but two zero waste stores, single-use is simply not going to cut it. But we can’t just be wrapping a scarf around our face and calling it PPE. The best fabric masks have strict specifications and cleaning requirements. 

Three layers of fabric are highly recommended. For the outer layer, a water resistant fabric like polyester or polypropylene. The middle layer needs to be a fabric blend like cotton polyester or polypropylene, and the inner layer should be a water-absorbent cotton. Also: wash it. Please. Every day after use. Those things get sticky.

This leads me to my next point. To follow health guidelines, you’re going to need a couple of masks on rotation. I’ve got two fabulous sleek black masks to pair with my Melbourne winter monochrome, and another soft brown nylon for my chilled earth tone days. The latter, made by Melbourne designer STASEV, has great toggled drawstrings. Department of Health and Services advice is that a mask needs to ‘snugly’ cover the wearer’s nose and mouth. This generates a classic design problem, in the tension between effectiveness and comfort. Ear flaps are too loose. Elastic is fine, but it can become irritably tight when the mask is worn for longer periods. In my experience, the humble toggle rules – sometimes a small adjustment can make a huge difference.

Workwear – my cyborg look
Branching out in brown with Ellie
Toggles are best but can’t help with straws

Another thing to design-think about is how masks interact with people’s accessibility requirements. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, masks that cover the face can make communication difficult. It’s important to be mindful of people’s different access needs and actively respond to any preferences expressed by people around you. I’ve got a clear plastic face-shield that I wear to my cafe job. I’ve found that it’s made communicating with older customers with hearing difficulties a lot easier, although they have had a laugh at my cyborg look. Or thinking laterally, some people may prefer to communicate through text-based communication apps. Responding to people’s self-determined accessibility requirements instead of making assumptions is the way to go.

If you told me in January that everyone in Melbourne would be wearing a mask to go to Woolies in August, I would’ve said: what the…..? And will the Dockers still be bringing home a premiership from the G? But here we are. In the pandemic, good design couldn’t be more important. So if (Mark McGowan forbid) Covid risk increases in Freo, forget the Chemist Warehouse multi-packs. Buy local, buy quality, buy considered design. Shoes off, masks on.

Cameron Hurst is a writer and curator based in Narrm / Melbourne

Published 17 August 2020

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) has announced the winners of the 2020 Western Australian Landscape Architecture Awards, a celebration of the best landscape architecture projects in the state.

13 outstanding projects were awarded across 11 categories, recognising design excellence across Western Australia. Jury Chair Nathan Greenhill says that this year’s winning projects highlight the value of landscape architecture in our urban and regional centres.

As the world deals with COVID-19, we’ve been reminded of the foundational role that public space plays in maintaining and strengthening our connections, as well as our physical and mental health

Jury Chair Nathan Greenhill

The WA Medal, this year’s top honour, was awarded to a collaboratively developed community meeting place designed by Nyamba Buru Yawuru and MudMap Studio. Liyan-ngan Nyirrwa (Cultural Wellness Centre) is located in Broome on the grounds of Nyamba Buru Yawuru.

The Liyan-ngan Nyirrwa landscape is designed to maximises cultural wellness, with the creation of places for honouring and celebrating Yawuru people, and for healing and reconciliation. Image: Nyamba Buru Yawuru

“To create a meaningful gathering space for the community, Nyamba Buru Yawuru and MudMap Studio worked together in a process of listening, observing, engaging and understanding,” says Greenhill. “Liyan-Ngan Nyirrwa embodies the essence of landscape architecture as a collaborative practice.”

Other projects celebrated in this year’s awards include a riverfront plaza in South Perth, a renewed waterfront in Rockingham, and a biodiverse residential garden in Subicao.

Fremantle practices were recognised across several categories. Congratulations UDLA for taking out two awards. The Rocks Laneway in Geraldton received the Award of Excellence in the Urban Design category, and UWA Cultural Heritage Mapping project received the Award of Excellence in the Cultural Heritage category.

The Rocks Laneway in Geradlton delivers a new pedestrian link via the transformed ‘Rocks’ building that provides an additional connection between the Foreshore, through to Marine Terrace (the main retail precinct) through to the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery. ‘Wildflower’, a supergraphic by Trevor Richards, guides pedestrians along the route. Image: Josh Monagan
UWA Cultural Heritage Mapping Project provides a map of the UWA Campus revealing a cross-cultural ‘living’ spatial knowledge that can be woven into an ever-changing contemporary fabric. The project was undertaken by landscape architects alongside artists and Noongar Elders and leaders.Image: Jason Thomas

North Fremantle practice Ecoscape received the Award of Excellence in the Community Contribution category for Saint Joseph’s Nature Play Master Plan, and a Landscape Architecture Award for Play Spaces for the Barrow Park Play Space in North Coogee / South Beach.

The Barrow Park Pump Track and Play Space drew inspiration from the surrounding Fremantle vernacular and local pocket parks. The design utilised recycled materials and a coastal plant palette to reflect local character and embody principles of sustainability. Image: Leela Day

“Western Australian landscape architects continue to deliver amazing projects that transform public and community spaces that are highly valued, have genuine purpose and that restore our connections to place and people,” says Greenhill.

Design isn’t just about things you can see. DesignFreo’s Michael Tucak is a lawyer working in Fremantle in the creative sector, and a Cottesloe councillor. He is interested in how the design of services and processes can improve life for everyone, drawing on precedents from around the globe.


Design isn’t only about buildings, interiors or objects. It can also be applied to improve the services we use (service design), systemic processes (strategic design), and even our core institutions of governance (public sector design).

This broad application of design into intangible areas follows from the idea that a design approach can be applied to any area of life. As researchers Rachel Cooper and Sabine Junginger observe:

Because the skills and methods that constitute design are useful in responding to the challenges facing us today, designing is now being recognised as a general human capability

Or, focussing more acutely on public outcomes, Danish Design Center CEO Christian Bason in his book “Leading Public Design: Human Centred Governance” draws on UK research led by sociologist Elizabeth Shove:

Design is … a medium through which social and commercial ambitions are materialised and realised“.

In service delivery, this is quite obvious. A service is something that benefits from good design as much as a building does, and we know it when we use it: a smooth check-in, an easy to navigate online job application, or a government service that is almost pleasurable to use.

Service design is an established discipline which is rapidly growing, including the related branches of UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience). In WA, the Service Design Perth Meetup group boasts over 500 members.

Design is increasingly applied to solving complex, inter-connected and interdependent systemic challenges. The preamble to the WA Office of the Government Architect’s “Design Review Guide” applies to built form but illustrates the broader scope that design offers:

 “Good design endeavours to reconcile multiple concurrent and often competing processes”.

Strategic design is still an emerging area. Only relatively recently have we better understood the deep complexity of our planet’s ecosystems, population growth and movements. These, and new problems never faced before, have no easily applicable solutions nor often any reliable data.

Strategic design is increasingly used by businesses, NGOs and in the public sector, including one of the world’s leading design labs, Helsinki Design Lab.

Design offers more than form, useability or new solutions. The UK Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment says:

Good design is not just about the aesthetic improvement of our environments, it is as much about improved quality of life, equality of opportunity and economic growth”.

Design can also be applied to the very workings of our society and how it is governed – policies and decisions that do not simply pit ‘A against B’ or descend to the lowest common denominator, but seek an evolution beyond ideology to deliver better, more inclusive outcomes and greater public value.

Globally, many local, regional or national governments are embracing design through internal design teams, external ‘design labs’ or other models. The UK leads the way with Policy Lab under Dr Andrea Siodmok, and local councils in Kent and Cornwall have their own design labs. The Danes retain a top spot as leaders in design through the peak Danish Design Center, the city-based Copenhagen Solutions Lab, and local labs in Aarhus and Roskilde.

In Australia, the Federal Government offers internal design training through its BizLab Academy, but regional and local government design labs or teams are still scarce.

What is clear is that design offers great opportunities to improve our lifestyles, our society and even our planet, from the physical to systems and policies.

Perhaps the last word on the broad application of design beyond the physical comes from revered designer Charles Eames. In response to a question posed by pioneering designer Bill Moggridge, who asked ‘what are the boundaries of design?’, Eames replied:

What are the boundaries of problems?

image: Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash