Long before working at Harry Seidler’s Sydney practice, as a student in Japan, Hiromi Lauren was more interested in fashion design than in architecture, and to this day her extra-curricular studies in that discipline have inspired the ways in which she develops her buildings’ designs.

“My fashion-design school was called Mode and it’s very famous in Japan. Two big schools produce the most famous designers, such as Koshino Junko, Kenzo and Issey Miyake, those working in haute couture. Mode was more for commercial-type designers, those working for big companies that produce commercial clothing, or prêt-à-porter.

“In order to make those sorts of products, in year one we had to learn how to sew and how to make clothes, and to be able to design you have to be able to think about them in three dimensions. You’d have to be able to cut, using one piece of cloth to dress a mannequin. Then you’d take it off the model and put it on the table, so you learnt how to make a pattern.

“In the second year, you start designing things, and the interesting thing is how they teach you. You’d have sheets of A3 or larger paper, and on the left of the sheet you’d have an image of a very stylish, typical next-season’s catwalk model. From there, you’d then design a new image next to it in which you are allowed to change only one thing.

“I think that six-stages methodology is a very good strategy for building design.”

“In the next image you drew, you could again change another single thing, but by the end of the paper, once you’ve repeated this several times you’ve arrived at something completely different. It has become your design, but it still follows next season’s style. I’ve learned since that that skill can be used for designing buildings as well.

“At the end of that second year, we had a big recital hall to host the second year’s graduation, but I couldn’t go because I had a university architecture exam to study for. Sitting the exam took precedence, not necessarily for me, but because my parents paid for my university.

“As I paid for the fashion-design school for myself, I didn’t want to fail, but then my friend called me and said what are you doing? I had won top prize and it was just so embarrassing for the school that somebody won the top prize but didn’t even turn up to receive the award.

“I’d been going to the school for four years, but the chairman hosting the ceremony was also the founder of the school and he never talked to me again.

“I think that six-stages methodology is a very good strategy for building design. Sometimes you like particular architects, like Sejima, or whoever I like, and they provide the initial inspiration for a design, and some people may consider using that technique as copying, but it’s not, it’s just following the style and the language, but without designing something completely different. But, by this time, it has become your own original design.

“Besides, it is always unique, as architectural drawing always says that this particular building has to be on this particular site, so the drawing can’t be used for any other site because each one is different. Even if you like a particular building and try to copy it completely, you can’t anyhow, as each one has a different function, a different geometry, and a different use. However, by changing one thing and then another, then it becomes a completely different building but it still has that style.

“Now, while I think that strategy is a good way of working, now I am working with Selina, and she has a different mind and she knows all kinds of different materials, plastics, acrylics and all the funky things I don’t.

“Working with Seidler’s I’ve worked on a lot of black and white buildings, but by putting a younger mind into a design, it can become much more interesting. All up, it is quite different to working with Harry, who never allowed people to do things like that. I think our approach now gives us a very good and inspiring design combination.”