5 QUESTIONS WITH ARCHITEAM DIRECTOR SONIA SARANGI
Last November at the 2019 Annual General election there were three vacancies on the Board of Directors. Warwick Mihaly renominated for a second term, Jamie Sormann nominated, having filled the casual vacancy left by Zoe Geyer in June and last but not least Sonia Sarangi filled that last place on the Board replacing Barbara Moje.
Here we ask Sonia 5 questions to get to know a little more about her.
Who are you?
In chronological order, I am :
...the bratty younger child of my wonderful parents
...the nerdy sibling to my uber-cool sister
...the beloved sparring partner to my husband
...the mother of two very cheeky munchkins
...a co-director of Atelier Red+Black
...a mentor to female archi-students over the years
...a sessional tutor of Archi-prac at MSD
...the newest director of ArchiTeam!
What do you do?
Our practice, Atelier Red+Black, began with the mission statement - "Architecture is for Everyone". Six years later, we can say hand-on-heart that it remains our guiding principle in every decision we have made since. With each brief, no matter how modest, we look for the elegant solution that untangles the problems but also one that creates positive and transformative experiences.
Our portfolio of work consists of primarily private residential, recent medium-scale multi-residential and the occasional commercial and fit-out projects. Last year we were thrilled to receive a High Commendation in the Think Brick awards along with being shortlisted in the AIA Vic Chapter and Houses magazine awards in the Residential Alterations & Additions category for our Cascade House project.
But we are so much more than our built output. We see ourselves as advocates of great design as well as for diversity and equality in the architecture profession. From the day we launched our practice, we have sought ways to give back to the community and the profession: proposing alternate visions when we saw flawed ones for our city's future; mentoring others when the next generation was at risk of attrition; and communicating the value of architecture to the public through our Blog (The Red and Black Architect) and other publications, such as Domain.
In recent years, I have been delighted to discover a passion for teaching and have taught Architecture Practice and Asia-Pacific Modernism at MSD (University of Melbourne).
And finally, I am excited to be handed the CPD & Events portfolio within the ArchiTeam Board this year. If you have a burning idea topic that you would love to see presented, get in touch!
What has been the scariest/courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Going into practice with Michael didn't feel scary, but like the most natural and inevitable thing to do... so I won't repeat that old chestnut.
The scariest thing I've ever done is commenced the renovations on our home the week after coming home with our newborn. Yes, I am fully aware now of how crazy that sentence is. (Worry not, a builder was engaged and we moved out!) The upside of the whole experience? It gave me a deep insight into what clients go through behind-the-scenes during the construction stages of a project. Even after a decade in the profession, my knowledge of their experience felt abstract and theoretical. I highly recommend doing even a small project of one's own to every fledgling architect to truly beef up ones empathy and ability to support clients through the difficult process of giving birth to a project.
The most courageous (and stupid) thing I have ever done is trek with my husband to the top of Fox Glacier in New Zealand. Why? Because I am the kind of person who trips over their own two feet all the time and does not belong on a deadly ice-cliff!
Who do you admire and why?
Among architects, the late Zaha Hadid - because she proved that it was possible for an ethnically diverse woman to rise to the top of our profession. Whatever you may think of her work or her persona, she inspired a generation of women of colour like myself.
Among people I have known personally, it would be both my grandfathers for the values they lived by and the lives they transformed. One was an educator and believed in education above all else. In one generation, he lifted his whole family out of poverty. I wouldn't be typing this today if not for that ethos. The other was a lawyer who took on pro-bono cases for farmers on top of a full case list. He believed that to give back to others is the highest act of faith and good karma. Together, they shaped my principles and spirituality.
Why ArchiTeam? What made you want to get involved?
For years I had begun to feel that many industry bodies did not truly speak to someone like me who is at the coal face of the profession. I overheard many conversations referring to a fabled ‘forum’, was invited to speak at a CPD event and before I knew it I realized so many of the people I respected were passionate A-teamers.
What made me want to get involved was when I realized that this was EXACTLY the organization I had been seeking out for years...
...and also a teeny, tiny case of FOMO! 😁
Eventually I was tapped to join the CPD committee and the rest, as they say, is history.