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Kennedy Nolan Architects is a relatively
young practice that has emerged as a firm
to watch with a host of notable residential
projects to their name. Established 12 years
ago out of the rich University of Melbourne
field of talent, they bring a freshness to the
potential of the small home.
Patrick Kennedy and Rachel Nolan are
university friends turned business partners,
which doesn’t surprise given they share not
only a similar background, country kids from
either side of the Wodonga/Albury divide,
but also residency at the University of
Melbourne’s Newman College and their
earliest experiences of architecture.
“Some of my earliest memories of innovative
design, Patrick and I shared,” Nolan recalls.
“The 1970s work of the Albury Wodonga
Development Corporation, Clyde Cameron
College by Kevin Borland and Bernard Brown,
and a variety of houses by the project
housing company, Merchant Builders, were
just some of the projects we would yack
about in our early graduate days. I would
often visit his house on the way back from
work, drink many beers, smoke many
cigarettes and chat about architecture.”
These influences have shaped this unique
firm and their architectural interests around
materiality, tactility, porosity, luminosity and
the visual; these are the interests of Kennedy
Nolan in the making of architecture.
It was a delight to spend time with these
warm, earnest architects who are clearly
passionate about delivering fine works of
architecture no matter how small the site or
how modest the program.The architecture is
often in the materials on many of these small
projects, Rachel tells me.
It may be something to do with the ‘north of
the Yarra’ thing but it is immediately obvious
on entering their brick-clad 1940’s office in
Moor Street, Fitzroy in inner-city Melbourne
that has housed this practice for the last nine
years, that this delightful pair lead a practice
that exudes a relaxed creativity.
This is a firm that is ready on humour and
flexibility and is family-friendly with a number
of their 11 employees working part-time in
order to juggle family, study and other
commitments with the business of
architecture. Rachel currently works a three
day week as she has three small children,
however she speaks of the day when she will
take the main reins again which will allow
Patrick to take time out to do things that he
has wanted to do.
This firm has grown and shaped itself around
its staff, all architects who have taken time
out. Many a baby has slept under the desk,
all making it possible to balance family and
architecture which is often a deal breaker for
many women architects.The firm has allowed
for changes which have built a very
committed and loyal office that to this day
shares a weekly meal.
The workplace is an open plan studio where
there is frequent communication across the
room on points of detail or reference.There is
a sense of flexibility but at the same time a
strong sense of commitment to projects and
people. Rachel and Patrick are very proud of
this and grateful to their staff, although they
have to find a new home for the office and
so begin the firm’s third phase.
Does this wonderful blend of down-to-
earthiness, humour and flexibility lend itself to
creating beauty in ordinary things?
Architect and urban designer Gerry McLoughlin
reviews the work of Kennedy Nolan Architects, a young
Melbourne practice that is bringing a fresh approach
to small home design.
The Schiavo house in
inner-city Melbourne
makes exceptional use of
a tiny site. Kennedy Nolan
Architects principals
Patrick Kennedy and
Rachel Nolan are
university friends turned
business partners.