5 minutes with Seada Linardi, founder of SLAB
In her own words, SLAB‘s Seada Linardi describes her studio as a practice that is driven by an aesthetic approach to design. It’s young and youthful and she is “proud of the fresh thinking that the SLAB team demonstrates in each and every one of our projects.” Made up of a team of seven makes the boutique studio agile, allowing for a level of flexibility that can really focus on design.
How do you approach your projects? Do you have a set process?
With every project, we start the same way, which is by looking at the context in which the project will sit: the site and history of the area. Our most recent project was Shelley St, a townhouse project in Richmond by Oz Property. We started by spending time in the Richmond area to really get an understanding of the lifestyle in the area.
We workshop questions like “How is the history of the area relevant to the site and project?” and “How do we make sure we respect the area and what is already there, through our design?” Then we implement all our findings throughout the design. With Shelley St, for example, the design reflects the history of Richmond through aspects like the use of sawtooth roofs, brick façade and industrial aesthetic that Richmond is known for which extend into the interiors.
You founded SLAB in 2015, what have been some of the biggest learnings you’ve had throughout this process?
The biggest learning for me has been the business side of starting a practice: things like managing people and business cash flow. Design comes naturally to me; I’m not afraid of the design process. It’s the business management that was the learning curve. And we aren’t taught this side at university either, so you have to learn quickly.
“The biggest challenge would be learning how to be a hustler. You have to constantly be hustling.” – Seada Linardi, SLAB
What are some of the insights you can share being a female founder in a traditionally male-dominated (at least at director level) industry?
There’s some truth in the saying “fake it ‘til you make it”. Taking my own advice to be brave and confident and to not get intimidated by anyone!
You collaborate with your husband, Jesse Linardi, can you talk about that process and what it’s like?
We work together really well, and the process is a naturally easy one. We also have the same design aesthetic, which is probably how we come to work together and collaborate so often.
For things like Shelley St, we spent a lot of time over weekends in Richmond preparing for that project and getting to know the area. Because we’re married, it meant we could do that sort of thing easily and it doesn’t feel like work. The challenge is that because we live together, the work never leaves us.
Do you have any secret weapons of advice to share with young female architects starting out in the industry?
Be brave! It can be intimidating working in a firm. My advice would be to ask for help if you don’t understand something. It’s OK to absorb people’s experience and knowledge. Be true to yourself – don’t get stuck in a role that isn’t pushing you professionally and artistically.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge would be learning how to be a hustler. You have to constantly be hustling.
Also, when starting SLAB, it was all the unknowns. There were so many known unknowns when you start a business that you have to adapt and respond to, often learning as you go.
“My advice would be to ask for help if you don’t understand something. It’s OK to absorb people’s experience and knowledge.” – Seada Linardi, SLAB
What are you most proud of throughout your career?
I love that I am able to provide the SLAB team with opportunities to really own a project. This is something that’s not always available to young architects and designers in big firms, and I feel proud to be able to offer the opportunity to work on a project from start to finish.
How do you balance being a businesswoman and a parent?
Honestly, it’s really hard and really challenging. Everyone says that, but it’s certainly true. I have a one-year-old, Savanah, and you just have to make it work. She stays with my mother three days a week, and actually comes into the office with me two days a week, where she has become part of the SLAB team. Baby gates and all.
I love working, it’s a big part of my identity, and so while parenting and working are hard, becoming a parent is by far my biggest achievement and ultimately I’m grateful that I’m able to have the opportunity to do both.
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