Jenny Watson

"I want to be continually learning about building so I can feed that knowledge back into what I design”

“I’ve been raised and educated as an architect totally by ARM.

In 2006, when I was at uni in Perth, I was put into Andrew Lilleyman’s design class. At the time, ARM was designing RAC Arena (then Perth Arena). It was on the front page of the newspapers and one of the early renders looked like a space ship and it was the strangest thing we’d ever seen.

I’d just started second year, so I didn’t know what architecture was yet, but Andrew taught us stuff like the fluid dynamics animation software that he was using at ARM. It put students in that class way ahead in terms of employability in firms that do that kind of generative cutting-edge architecture.

I started working in ARM’s tiny Perth studio straight after that class. I got to see the whole process of creating RAC Arena, and later Elizabeth Quay, and I did whatever needed doing in the moment. It was a unique situation because I had the opportunities to learn and the freedom that you get in a tiny workplace, but we were just a phonecall away from ARM’s big Melbourne studio.

When the Perth office closed, I moved to Melbourne. I’m mainly designing rather than delivering projects, but I want to be continually learning about building so I can feed that knowledge back into what I design.

At ARM, the early stages of design involve using a lot of software for experimenting and manipulating concepts. Something I learned from ARM is not to be constrained to one type of software, or to let the software define what you design. I teach at RMIT University occasionally, and sometimes a student will show me a concept that’s all squishy, for instance, and I’ll say, ‘That’s cool, but why is it squishy and not pointy?’ and they’ll say, ‘Because the software does squishy’.

The answer should be, ‘It looks like that because I want it to look like that’.”