Philosophy of Space: IF Architecture
On IF Architecture
To meet Iva is to feel humbled by the passion and deliberation she imbues into all of her creative projects. For her and her team at IF Architecture, each design is an exercise in listening, in “reading between the lines” to carve out a space that speaks of the lifestyles and value systems of its inhabitants, as well as the context of its surrounding environment. “When people try to say, ‘oh, we want the same roll-out of things', that is sort of our anti-philosophy,” Iva tells us. “I think each space is different. How could this space be same in Melbourne? I don’t think it could.”
In our season of Tacit, we speak to Iva in Jardan’s Paddington showroom, the latest of IF Architecture’s projects, about the ideologies and experiences that have shaped her creative identity.
Introduction Chynna Lao
Art Direction Edana Isobel Jamora
Images Jessica Lindsay
What is your architectural ethos?
It’s really strongly about context. Context in the sense that the space that is here…I could never really repeat this ever again. It’s in this site, in this city, for these people – and although for instance, for Jardan, there’s another store in Melbourne and one in Brisbane and there’s some lineage between them that’s respectful of their history and their brand, they’re all different because I can’t make the same space again. And I think when people try to say, 'oh, we want the same roll-out of things', that is sort of our anti-philosophy. I think each space is different. How could this be the same in Melbourne? I don’t think it could.
It’s the same with residential. We have a client at the moment who’s single and his house is completely different to another client who has two little girls. Of course, there are things aesthetically that we like but we really try to start each project with a singular idea that’s contextually based. And that’s an idea that’s gotten stronger and stronger as my career’s matured as well. We talk about this in the office quite a bit – how to balance big concepts and ideas with what it actually takes to get something built and how to find the sweet spot between the two.
Does that filter through other aspects of your life?
Very much. Actually, for a little while I was quite determined to see them as separate. And then, I had a sort of epiphany that it’s not. Obviously, you can have a job where you start at 9 and finish at 5 but this is not like that. You can’t separate it from your life. It becomes a part of you. Architecture and design – it’s really a passion for me and I become quite emotionally attached to projects and ideas. I do think that there are no boundaries and while it is important to give myself time to not always have so many things going on in my mind, the separation between my creative self and my personal life – it’s not there. They’re intertwined.
You mention that architecture is really about combining aesthetic with function. Is it ever difficult to find the balance between the two?
Sometimes it can be quite difficult, especially when something is really rigorous and prescribed like in many hospitality projects we’ve taken on. The client need things to work a particular way. There’s not much movement because they have efficiencies in that as well; a kitchen works efficiently this way, a space works efficiently that way, all the way down to waiters being able to talk to each other with their eyes, paths of travel, not going behind people. Some people have very strong ideologies about how that works and it doesn’t necessarily always balance with the aesthetics. Sometimes you’ve got to know when to push a little bit for the good of the project but you also need to know when to let it go. Because, ultimately, the project will finish and I’ll leave, essentially. The design part will be over, and they’ve got to live there. And if it doesn’t work for them, it has a flow on effect.
What are the textures and materials you keep gravitating towards and why?
Lots of natural materials, timbers and natural stones. All of the stones [in Jardan Paddington] are Australian stones. Even lots of natural fibres – leathers and wools. I’m not anti-synthetic materials but I think, probably what it is, is that I like things that age and that aren’t always perfect. And I think the thing with more synthetic materials is that they’re designed to be perfect all the time and I kind of like it when things are worn in. There’s something so beautiful about something ageing and having a sense of time.
What do you think are the key ingredients of a good home? Are there certain things in your own home that you felt important to implement?
In a design capacity, when something is really easy and effortless in terms of the spatial planning, its fluid movement from space to space or room to room, I think that generally makes people feel more relaxed and at ease. I also think that having materials that are solid and secure is really important. A lot of natural light also really helps as well – I can sort of imagine having breakfast and reading the paper and things like that. And things like a fireplace that becomes the focal point of a room so you don’t have to rely on an external thing like a TV or something for people to come together.
I think what makes my home feel like home is… well, we’re very lucky that we have really big beautiful windows and really comfortable, nice furniture. We have this large armchair that you can just sink into and it’s nice and relaxing. We’ve got soft colours and lovely textures and when you’re just living your day and continuously on the go and you get home – it feels so nice to have a place where it feels like you can just decompress. You want to feel like you can sit anywhere and feel comfortable – that really helps with the homely feeling as opposed to a house. Because home is really that sense of security and calmness that you get. Of course, a beautiful space is amazing but I think for us if we didn’t have any of that, any of our nice furniture or textures, it wouldn’t make it less home for us.
How does design manifest values or belief systems?
For our residential clients, I think that before they’ve had something designed specifically for them, they’re not necessarily content; they kind of put up with what they’ve got and they arrange their lives to suit. So, if they’ve got a small bathroom, they arrange their time so that each person has time in the bathroom. Or the study is in the living room. And after they’ve had something that’s designed purposefully for how they live then I actually think it really does shift the way they inhabit that space. It impacts the way they interact with each other and how they might spend their weekends because, all of a sudden, their space is there to lift their time and their everyday. So, I do think that it does influence their values and belief systems because they’re actually in a space that’s designed to encourage that.
Of course, people aren’t always that reflective but I also think that if you’re happy in a space then that flows on into so many things and if you’re happy in a home because you’re feeling warm and secure, then that flows on into how you live your life.