Jenna Rowe, Architect

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Jenna Rowe seems to create beauty in everything she does. Her attention to detail and appreciation for the aesthetic make her an expert creative - as an architect, a jeweller, a ceramicist, and an (Instagram) photographer. In the same way she sees the best in everything, she puts her best into everything, and it's a delight to share her responses with you all today. Thanks Jenna! 

What do you do?

I am an architect by day for work-work; and I have multiple side outlets for other-work. I make jewellery, I work as a graphic designer on the side, I tutor at UTS, I write for design publications, and I make ceramics (not all at the same time, don’t worry…)

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

‘If you’re going to do a job, do it properly or don’t bother’ (thanks Dad).

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

Studying architecture at university definitely. Architecture is multi-disciplinary. As a profession it sits at the confluence of art, science, geography, sociology, psychology, mathematics. This is what I loved about my 5 years of architecture school.

Second, in 2014 I was awarded a position on the coveted Dulux Study Tour, a global study tour for emerging Australian architects. It gave me access to a network of prominent practicing architects whom I can call upon for career advice, life advice, travel advice!

Does a very creative childhood count as a milestone? I often joke that my parents are outrageously supportive. My Dad doesn’t know this, but years ago I overhead one of his friends ask ‘did you ever wish you had boys?’ (in reference to me and my little sister). His response was a look of honest confusion, then he asked ‘what do you mean? The girls do anything with me that a son would do?’. Growing up dad would have me in my boots helping him build things in his workshop, sitting inside joinery drawer carcasses holding the panels together while he fitted them off. He’d take us fishing, making aluminium foil boats in the creek in our gumboots. Meanwhile Mum was encouraging us to craft away with stuff from the craft cupboard under the stairs. She would take us to ask for cardboard boxes from the corner store and I’d tape them together with excessive amounts of sticky tape to make dolls houses. Looking back it’s really no wonder I ended up doing what I do…

What is your dream project?

A space for myself one day.

What places are important to you?

I grew up in Hobart. The longer I spend in Sydney, the more I realise how special my island home is. A 30 minute drive from Hobart in any direction will land you in diverse landscapes. We spent weekends and holidays camping across all the different national parks on the island (essentially it’s a giant national park).

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

When I was on the Dulux Study Tour back in 2014, we met with a prominent Japanese American architect named Toshiko Mori. She was the calmest practicing architect I have come across – and she gave the advice ‘it’s productive to diversify, I get bored doing just one thing’. Before this particular moment, I was feeling uneasy about being locked into one creative discipline. She practiced as an architect, did pro-bono architecture work, taught at Harvard and engaged in art practice. This was a bit of an ‘a-ha’ moment, and came at a perfect time.

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Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Yes, we do. There is a group called Parlour which promotes gender equity within the profession. Whilst architecture is a male-dominated field, every practice I have ever worked at has also had a higher ratio of females than men, and I have a brilliant network of female mentors who I call upon when I’m struggling/need professional advice. It’s always been this way for me in particular, but I know others aren’t as lucky.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

At work-work I’m working on a mix of residential and retail projects, in other-work I’m finishing off a friend’s graphics and branding for her newly launched interior architecture practice, making necklaces, and organising a second trip to Japan! (trip planning is a project, right?)

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

Travel! Travel is so important, so enriching, particularly for designers. For example you read and research as much as you can; but this will never hold up to visiting a project and experiencing it spatially in person. Or seeing the detail constructed in real life. The defining moment for me was the first time I went to Europe and visited all the buildings I wrote essays about.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I love ocean pools (okay this a weak attempt at sarcasm, if you follow me on social media you’d know I pretty much live at the Bronte pool).

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What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I’m a listener and a reader, not much of a watcher. I am mostly plugged in to spotify each day, I love the ‘discover weekly’ playlists it aggregates based on your choices.  

How can we find our more about your work?

On my instagram account (apologies in advance for any ocean-pool envy my stories create), and also over on www.jennarowe.com.au.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?  

Nat Turnbull!

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