Elizabeth Hamer

“Buildings should add something to the environment, not take away from it.”

It is this philosophy that MADA (Monash Art Design and Architecture) Architecture graduate, Elizabeth Hamer, has carried with her all through her student and professional life.

A star pupil from the first intake of students to the Architecture program for MADA in 2008, Elizabeth entered this degree directly from an arts education at the University of Melbourne.

“I had studied art history, French and architectural history at Melbourne University. I found that the combination of architectural history and my eventual changing over into straight architecture presented a welcome merging of the practical and the creative.”

This sense of the practical and the creative working served Elizabeth well throughout her undergraduate degree.

All MADA Architecture students are given the opportunity to partake in a Design-Make, a program that encourages budding architects to immediately begin work on a real world scale. It was through the Design-Make program that Elizabeth hit her stride.

“I worked on the first Design-Make at Kinglake in 2009 and on the Docklands project Sealight Pavilion in 2011.

For me, the Sealight Pavilion is a project with a real connection to the natural features of the Docklands. It focuses on the expansive sky of the Docklands, which is something that hasn’t been a very clear point of conversation around that area.”

The Kinglake project created a community facility in a temporary village supporting the community displaced by the Black Saturday bushfires in Kinglake, Australia. The bushfires around Kinglake also resonated particularly strongly with Elizabeth on a personal level.

After the horrors of the bushfires destroyed part of her family’s vineyard, Elizabeth decided to put her combined building and architecture skills to the test. In a design exercise that relied on intimate, tactile knowledge of the winery, Elizabeth initiated a Design-Make project of her own: creating a cellar door that was missing from the winery out of found materials burnt during the fires. The project, conducted mainly with student volunteers and supervised by lecturer Maud Cassaignau, was a critical and scholarly success, inspiring many other students to pursue their own Design-Make projects.

Elizabeth now works as a casual builder at Knox Construction and as an exhibition constructor at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). For an emerging young architect, the combination of the designing and building process is key to seeing the whole complete vision of a project.

“I want to register as both a builder and an architect. I want to see architects less marginalised from the actual building process, including the ‘rougher’ building work that goes on day to day.”

Elizabeth is now working toward living out her philosophy of creating and supporting environmentally responsible architecture. Through her family’s fund launched in 2013, the Hamer Family Sprout Fund, Elizabeth is determined to support the launching of sustainable communities with small assistance grants.

“Every little bit helps. We haven’t been around long, but we are giving what we can to assist burgeoning communities interested in sustainable living find a footing to launch off from.”

For Elizabeth, the Architecture program at Monash was instrumental in directing her along the way toward a rewarding and energetic career.

“The focus and attention on us as the first selection of graduates through the Architecture program meant that we were supported and more organised from the very beginning. The opportunity to connect with overseas practitioners such as Silvia Acosta and Rintala Eggertsson helped to cement my belief that architecture is about finding creative opportunities that already exist in our own environment.”