Unpublished for The West

Curated column by Simon Pendal

"How far we’ve come…

Open House Perth began in earnestly in 2011. A simple idea that carried with it a lot of opportunities. For me, as an architect and interior designer, the initial significance was built around showing WA just how many great designers were out there by opening some key projects. Amongst that was paying tribute to significant heritage buildings which were seemingly undervalued. What it has become for me and for WA is so, so much more.

Western Australian’s love good design! Make no mistake about it. What we tend to lack is an appreciation of what we have in our own backyard. Many of us travel around Australia and the world to surround ourselves with quality spaces and a vibrant urban atmosphere, seemingly with the belief we don’t have it at home. Its my personal belief that WA has some great spaces and places, but as a designer I will always be hungry for more. What I have found thru Open House Perth is that it’s not just designers with the appetite, it’s pretty much all of us!

In WA’s infancy, built legacy was fundamental, we wanted a sense collective pride. Somewhere along the line we lost our way. WA has a strong history of innovation, its known for its incredible natural landscapes but don’t we deserve more as residents, don’t we want more for visitors and how can we find a way to pay homage to the traditional owners of our land in way where we work towards reconciliation and common aspirations for the future?

Early buildings, particularly in the metropolitan area had a fundamental connection to land and place. Without modern technology and transportation, we worked with local materials, we orientated buildings to light, wind and maximized nature in an instinctive manner. A number of our significant colonized foundations align with indigenous trails and sacred spaces, yet most of our housing options carry little engagement to natural light, prevailing winds, community and green spaces. We no longer write names, dates and emblems across our significant buildings with the same sense of pride legacy.

Since founding Open House Perth I have become a wife and mother which has fundamentally changed what I see as important. Since the beginning almost 1000 people have volunteered, and almost 400,000 visits to Open House Perth locations have taken place. I still hunger for more good design, but my appetite is being increasingly filled. I have learnt Open House Perth event isn’t all about the amazing spaces we open, it’s about the people that visit them and what they take with them; whether it’s being inspired for their own projects, becoming more knowledgeable about sustainability or an increasing desire for a more connected vibrant WA. I believe Open House Perth has changed the way our audience see’s design in WA, but my hope is that our appetite is never really full and collectively we all work towards a better, more inclusive, diverse, sustainable built environment for future generations to unite and celebrate WA in the way it deserves… with a sense of pride, legacy and community."