Meet our people – Hannah Kuek, Senior Architect

Welcome back, Hannah! You’ve worked with us in the past, but left to pursue school teaching – could you tell us a little bit about this experience? (Including a brief recap on your history at ARM.)

Thank you – it’s great to be back. I worked at ARM for almost eight years on some significant workplace, educational, heritage, and arts projects including RMIT OurPlace (workplace), University of Adelaide Common Teaching Area Upgrades, Arts West and Geelong Library to name a few.

In my time away from ARM, I completed a Master of Teaching (Secondary) at the University of Melbourne. During these two years, I had the opportunity to teach in different schools – both government and independent. I taught art, design (including architecture!) and music to secondary school students and was a specialised VCE tutor in the classroom. This period taught me many things about effective teaching and learning – both strategies and techniques to be an effective teacher, but just as importantly, the type of architectural environments that foster great learning opportunities and cater to the diverse range of learning needs and abilities we see in classrooms today.

I still teach – currently at tertiary level at the University of Melbourne for Master of Architecture design students in the evenings after work.

As both a qualified teacher and architect, how do you think your unique disciplinary background will influence your practice as an architect?

When I was a pre-service teacher in the classroom during placements, I was afforded the unique opportunity to observe many lessons, watching experienced teachers from different subject backgrounds. Being invited into their classrooms, my role was to observe teaching strategies and student behaviour, but I couldn’t help but notice the teaching environments and how this impacted the success of a lesson. I noticed that even the most experienced teachers could have trouble managing a class if the teaching spaces didn’t support them – with blind corners or restricted visibility for both students and teachers, rooms that were not fit for purpose or had poor movement circulation, making it difficult for students to remain engaged.

Teaching spaces that support student engagement, wellbeing, and safety, different modes of learning, and behaviour management are paramount. Upon walking into the classroom, you can tell almost immediately if a space is going to support the lesson or introduce unnecessary challenges. If a classroom is well-designed, it is easier to teach, and the students have a better learning experience – this includes elements such as different modes for working for both collaborative and social, or quiet and independent, environmental comfort within the classroom, display spaces to proudly display student work or classroom expectations, safety elements, acoustic control, storage, lighting, great visibility, etc.

As an architect with experience as a teacher, I understand school environments and the perspectives of students and teachers. I want to design and deliver spaces that are hard-working, highly functional, promote safety and wellbeing, classroom management and are inspiring. Spaces that are supportive and introduce students to a love of learning, providing students with the best spaces and, in turn, opportunities to thrive – whatever their backgrounds may be. From the perspective of a teacher – I want to design spaces that support what I believe to be one of the most difficult, important, and rewarding career pathways to enable our passionate educators to continue to teach generations to come.

What’s the most inspiring/moving place you’ve ever visited, and what did you love about it?

Whenever I travel, I find inspiration through food, architecture, art, music, and culture. Recently, I spent some time in Italy attending a painting course in Florence and travelling around the country. During this time, I visited Pompeii. As an ancient city preserved in time, I found it fascinating that many of the architectural planning elements and road systems were not dissimilar to the principles we still apply today!