We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the Green prize winners of our “Vale De Moses Meditation Cabins” competition - Charlotte Staeck and Michelle Bily from Germany!

Green prize winners VMMC

Charlotte Staeck and Michelle Bily from Germany

We met in 2011 while studying at the ‘FH Hanover’ in Germany and graduated together with a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Architecture in 2015.

During her studies, Michelle went to Milan, to study abroad for one semester and to get new perspectives on design. Living and studying in one of the design capitals of the world and experiencing Salone del Mobile definitely shaped her design trajectory.

Since finishing studies, we have individually worked on a range of projects, including residential, hospitality, retail, and public spaces both in Germany and Australia, where Charlotte currently lives.

Our true passion, however, lies in green architecture and small, sustainable, modular building structures. While still in university, both of us chose to centre our bachelor’s theses on this topic and experimented with small spaces and clever usage of natural resources.

For Michelle, this was a modular, tiny house pop-up concept, and for Charlotte - a sustainable greenhouse restaurant on an abandoned rooftop. With these being our first self-determined projects, we laid the foundation for our aim to work with small spaces in harmony with nature.

We aim to work on similar projects as much as possible and love to create designs that have a positive impact on their surroundings and communities, as well as have a low environmental footprint.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company / individuals have been involved?

Charlotte: Before I moved to Australia, I worked as a graduate architect for ‘Mosaik Architekten” where I was involved in the design and construction stages of modular timber refugee homes within the city of Hanover, Germany. This project further shaped my interest and passion for sustainable and modular architecture. It has become one of my favourite experiences in my professional journey so far, not only because of the architecture itself but also because it was a project with an extremely important purpose: helping people in need and bringing them comfort through architecture.

During my time in Sydney, I have worked on a range of residential and hospitality projects, including the three recently completed restaurants of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney which I worked on during my time at the studio “Five Foot One Design”. These projects drew a strong connection between the architecture and the surrounding nature within the gardens.

Michelle: After university, I went to Hamburg and worked for Stephen Williams Associates, where I worked on hospitality projects and designed hotels for a range of different demographics. From the contemporary, with an emphasis on utilizing small spaces to their full potential, to retreat hotels and high-end luxury hotels.

One of my major projects at Stephen Williams Associates was the Hotel ‘Tortue’ at ‘Stadthöfe Hamburg’. Situated in a 19th-century heritage building, this was a high-class hotel with two restaurants and bars, which became very popular within the Hamburg gastronomy and hotel landscape.

The hotel ‘Schulz’ in Berlin was another project I worked on during my time at ‘Stephen Williams Associates’. A creative, modern hotel targeted to a younger clientele, featuring a food hall, a deli, a co-working space and a games and leisure area.

My role at the studio ‘Mykilos’ gave me great experience within the private sector, where I designed modern, high-end kitchens and bathrooms and gained even more insight into furniture and cabinetry construction with timber.

Both of us are currently working as freelance interior architects which allows us to work with a variety of clients and projects and develop both of our goals of building a company that focuses on small sustainable builds.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

For us, architecture is not only a necessity, but a means to shape and improve our daily experience within our built environment. The Architect can create spaces within an infinite set of possibilities that not only create shelter, but also make us feel warmth, comfort and a sense of place. Through architecture we can also provide a narrative; excitement, adventure, belonging, as well as a connection and deeper understanding of our environment, surroundings and the living beings around us.

We see it as one of our tasks and non-negotiable goals as architects/designers to create more spaces that reconnect people with nature and to counteract the disconnection between our society and nature. We believe that good architecture includes the environment, nature, and the user in every stage. Architecture and design have so much impact on everything we do and how we see the world nowadays that it can not stop with “just architecture and design”.

Architects and designers need to reconnect with the roots. We draw so much inspiration from nature; we should not only integrate it aesthetically in our projects, but, more importantly, be mindful of it and choose sustainability as much as possible.

In our opinion, architecture has to go with the times and the change in our habits and way of life without disconnecting from nature.

Why do you participate in architecture vision competitions?

Participating in architecture vision competitions is a great way for us to keep creative and challenge ourselves. It is a unique opportunity to work on special projects from all over the world, that might not be as accessible otherwise.

We, as an architect and a designer, think it is important to never stop thinking outside the box and be 100% open-minded. Competition projects from all over the world can challenge our creativity, give us new, fresh inspiration and change our perspective on things we thought we knew.

It keeps our curiosity flowing, trains our creative mind and helps to define our individual style and strengths as an architect and designer even more.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture vision competitions?

We personally are learning something new with every project we are working on, and therefore entering a competition helps us grow our skills. It is always beneficial to learn and to broaden our skills. Entering competitions is a great opportunity to be able to work on a project that you chose to work on because you are interested in its story.

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