CODA Studio


CODA Studio


Fremantle // @coda_studio

CODA is a practice that imagines what may be possible for the future of urban spaces in the growing cities and regional centres throughout Western Australia. We work across architecture, urban design, place planning, community consultation, sustainable design, brief development and interior design.

We actively engage in the politics of architecture and demonstrate our capacity to influence the future of the cities and regions of the state. We believe in the importance of good design but also in the creativity needed to engage more broadly with the issues that face the growing city.

We believe in making good work and making a place that is good to work.

How and when did your studio begin?

Our studio started in 1997 as a multi-disciplinary collaborative space. There were 6 of us. Tony Nathan (photographer), Marit Kloostra (retailer and designer – only Australian to have something put into production by IKEA!), Miriam Borcherdt (fashion designer), Diego Ramirez (architect), Kieran Wong (architect) and Emma Williamson (architect).

We had a lease on a portion of the old Salvation Army building in Pier Street in Perth. Kieran and I originally lived there but when we bought our first house we decided to maintain it as a studio. We had plenty of room and the opportunity to make something dynamic seemed like a great idea.

Who is involved?

We are now solely an architecture and urban design practice and Kieran and I are the only founding members still involved in CODA. Kieran and I are directors and we have 16 staff. Nick Juniper is our Associate Director, Sarah Besly and Emma Brain are associates. Every person in our practice plays a key role in the overall delivery of great work and in making it an enjoyable place to work.

Where do you find inspiration for studio?  Are there any local ones?

We look both outward and inward for inspiration. Due to the isolation we all experience in Perth we try to stay connected to what is happening elsewhere and to engage in discussions about contemporary modes of practice nationally. We feel inspired by great built work, by people who are able to run great businesses and by people who are willing to engage with the political side of architecture both within the profession and also in our role in making cities. People such as Geoffrey London, Geoff Warn and Carey Lyon are certainly inspiring in the way that they engage with architecture and the city.

Perth is seen as an emerging city, particularly for creative industries - do you feel like there are more opportunities in WA right now?

Right now, the market is extremely competitive and fee undercutting is skewing the opportunities for practices of our scale. This is a particularly worrying trend for us. Smaller practices risk being suffocated by the larger ones and when this happens the overall quality of work will be diminished, along with the fees.

We believe architects need to be creative in the way they contribute to the concept of making cities. Getting involved in the planning stages of a project or consulting I the development of briefs is just as valid and interesting as the design of a building. The great thing about WA is that opportunities exist here for us to be creative about how we engage with our emerging cities.

What do you think makes working in Western Australia unique?

Opportunities exist here for us to be creative about how we engage with our own places. The whole state is in a really interesting position at the moment. The Perth CBD, Fremantle and our regional centres are all rapidly evolving; for the first time young people, and particularly creative, are choosing to stay here rather than making the typical trek interstate or overseas. New things open, like a bar or restaurant, and people are genuinely excited and embracing of it. It’s a state that knows how to embrace optimism!.

What kind of projects is the studio known for?

We are generalists, able to deliver projects of all scales and types. We have tried to make sure our practice engages in wide-ranging conversations about how we make our cities and towns. As a result, we have designed buildings all over the state from housing to community centres as well as completed urban design and research projects.

Where is your favourite hometown spot?

South Beach, with a coffee and a bronut from Wild Bakery

What are your favourite local buildings?

Fremantle Ports Building, Iwanoff’s houses, Brian Klopper’s Bannister Street project, Fremantle houses by Seeber, Bathers Beach by Donsladson + Warn, The State Theatre, The Perth Arena ( love it!)

What is the best thing about being involved in the design industry?

Ability to be creative and contribute to the long-term identity of the city and state.

What should we expect to see from the studio in the future?

More of what we do now, done better. We are always looking for opportunity to be influencers in our cities, and are happy to be stealthy to get there – meaning you may not “see” anything that we do!

Rolling Stones or the Beatles?

Rage against the machine

Quote attribution: Emma Williamson