Five in Five with
Kurt Ridgway

March 15th 2018

Team member feature

At the end of last year, we welcomed our newest Senior Design Manager to the team. Our BD Manager Katie, sat down with Kurt to ask ‘five in five’ – Five questions in five minutes to get a quick look at his career highlights, favourite place to practice yoga, and a few other insights.

KL: Kurt, you’ve had an impressive career as an architect and interior designer, tell us a bit about some of the architectural practices you’ve worked in.

KR: My passion for design started early in life with my love of lego and watching my Dad spend time on the old drawings board. I grew up surrounded by details and filling note books with buildings.

When I first graduated University, I moved to Dublin and joined MOLA Architects. I unknowingly searched out companies that had a huge focus on Human Centred Design and I found building interiors and public spaces particularly fascinating.

I then went to NYC where I had spent my undergrad as a work placement and I joined Gensler – where the founder Art Gensler had a strong focus on Retail design [the GAP stores] and progressive commercial offices environments [Facebook HQ]. My two years there were very informative and over the following decade I returned again for a further three years with an organisation that has become a globally influential firm.

The majority of my experience has been here in Australia [Melbourne & Sydney] where I consider we, as a nation, have achieved a globally respected design standard. I have been fortunate to be exposed to a variety of projects on iconic spaces and buildings.

KL: As you have probably gathered already from your time here so far, the Frost* collective is really passionate about wellness. I heard you studied to become a Yogi in India – what was that like?

KR: Following my time living in the US, my partner and I decided to return to Australia. We were both tired & bloated, suffering from physical & mental illness having been worked to the bone. We discovered that a WORK / LIFE balance in the USA - isn’t a priority in most industries… and there is an expectation of people to work long hours with very few vacation days. We needed time to “decompress” simply find time to just BE.  We were searching for a place to experience a different way of life. I had spent time in India as a teen with my family and had very fond memories of the place I had always promised to return. We decided to head to the North of India three months to a town called Rishikeshi – situated in the foot hills of the Himalayas and right beside the mighty Ganga. The majority of our time was going to be spent at the Ashram. Our initial few weeks were intense and we all found it difficult to adjust. Looking back we were in withdrawal – 6 days a week, 8 hours a day of Yoga, Chanting, Philosophy, and Anatomy lessons… Awake at 5am – in bed by 9pm. No alcohol, no sugar, no meat. It was very liberating Mind Body and Spirit – mentally, the angst of our previously accepted ‘modern’ world had been lifted off our shoulders – the sense of your own insignificance and yet collective significance in this world became clearer and incredibly humbling.

KL: Any recommendations of where to practice yoga here in Sydney?

KR: It is a very personal experience – the most important thing is firstly – get a recommendation & don’t be afraid to start… just turn up and BE. Then follow your gut instinct… your head and heart will often say different things… but your gut will always tell you the truth. If it feels good stick at it. It takes the human psyche 8 weeks to form a “habit”. One thing that is always true – you will never regret a Yoga session.

KL: You’ve spent a fair amount of your career involved in workplace projects – what are your go to resources for staying abreast of the latest design trends in this sector?

KR: Travel and observation – listening to how my own friends – who work across many industries…want to work in the future.

Noticing how other countries work and how we [humans] prioritise our days. I have friends and colleagues in the design industry both here and overseas and we often talk about what are the current and future design trends. As designers, we have the ability to respond and implement that change in our environments.

KL: Word around the studio is that you are a bit of a green fingers – favourite plant and why?

KR: I love, love, love me some foliage… I think I inherited my passion and knowledge from my Mum – the presence of plants in the office environment and at home is really important – not only for the colour green – known for its calming effects but increasing the air quality. My favourite plants - Indoor: Chlorophytum comosum – [spider plants] these take me back to junior school teacher and her class room… Outdoors: Succulents [Echeveria elegans] their complexity and yet calming asymmetry always grab my attention.