MEMBER PROFILE: The Power of a Hands-on Approach to Architecture and Practice
In Italian, 'mani' means hands. Fittingly, it's a hands-on approach and the power of hand-made objects that drive ArchiTeam members Sara Tonini and René Nguyen of Mani Architecture.
In Italian, 'mani' means hands. So when Sara Tonini and her business partner at the time started Mani Architecture at the end of 2013, their intention was to create a hands-on residential-focused practice that values the art of craftsmanship. AKA #ManiMade. Six and a bit years on, Sara is now in partnership with René Nguyen, but the Mani ethos continues.
For Sara and René there's an emotional connection to things that are hand-crafted, "you can appreciate [the time, effort and skill in] a handmade card as opposed to a Hallmark card", they explain. It's one of the ways they try to make architecture more accessible and more legible to the general public, by tapping into the emotional connection to hand-made objects you can show people that "even a bathroom, if it's designed well, can mean so much."
Having both started their architectural careers working for larger firms in the commercial space, the switch to residential gives them the opportunity to be much more hands-on with every phase of the project and infuse more personality in their work. They can create a hand-made home for their clients.
A recent project, One Mani House, in Fitzroy North was a foray into the exciting world of architect-led development for the practice. While it was a challenge to design a home for an unknown client, it's something the pair say they'd "definitely" undertake again. It was an experience that allowed Sara and René to step out of their comfort zone and be a bit more adventurous than they might have been allowed in a traditional client-architect relationship. "It can be hard to explain to a client how something will look and feel but, this way, you can show them. That's one of the coolest parts and the reason we'd want to do it again."
Naturally, the project has Mani's namesake profusion of hand-crafted elements throughout, from the hand-thrown basins in each of the bathrooms to the built-in furniture which provides a surprisingly generous amount of dining and lounge room in what would otherwise be a tight space. One Mani House is packed full of unique, personal touches from the pink bathroom to the sunken alfresco dining area; it just makes you want to smile.
Rather than fall into the developer's trap of appealing to the mass market, Sara and René created a home they would want to live in. That strategy paid off. The new owners commented it felt like the home had been designed for them!
Where will Mani Architecture be in five years time? Other than "making loads of money and being able to live in a house like we design for clients", they joke, the future looks pretty similar to how it looks right now. "We're a small group of females doing what we love." What more could you ask for?
Written by Brodie Norris from Lunchbox Architect. Brodie recently launched Archifinder, a matchmaking service connecting clients and architects: find out more!