Architect Spotlight – Peta Heffernan

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Peta is co-founding director of Liminal Studio, a creatively agile practice that integrates design and architecture with the disciplines interior, furniture, graphic, object and production (performance) design as well as art curation and exhibitions. Their interdisciplinary approach is captured through the Studio’s Architecture, Graphics, Spaces and Objects identities.

Having launched in 2011 in Tasmania, the boutique Studio with a globally experienced team of 14 is noted for design excellence, creativity and their embrace of collaboration.

Liminal is a strong advocate of how quality design can make a positive difference to communities and place through collaborative and interdisciplinary processes. While many of Liminal’s projects touch people through education, culture, health, workplaces, housing and tourism, the Studio often operates outside the traditional realm of architecture supporting, participating and elevating the cultural landscape of Tasmania as well as cities and regions beyond.

‘Liminal’ means at the threshold; exploring the potential of what can be. This drives the team’s approach on every project.

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The Liminal Team - founding directors Elvio Brianese and Peta Heffernan centre - photo Jonathan Wherrett

How would you describe your design philosophy in three words?

Make a difference.

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Liminal - Scene fom 'Born from Animals' - a Tasmanian Theatre Company production - Photo Jonathan Wherrett

How do you see design improving our quality of life, and how we live, work, consume and connect?

Design has an integral role to play in supporting the attainment of quality in the lives we lead. The environment we operate in on a daily basis, whether it’s our home, play, restorative or work environment significantly impacts on our wellbeing, it influences the ability to engage, impacts on our productivity, ability to learn and can enhance our understanding of place and awareness of the environment we are in. Good design is human centred, creative problem solving that is executed to make a positive difference.

Architect Spotlight – Peta Heffernan
Liminal Freycinet Lodge Coastal Pavilions - Photo Dianna Snape

As society enters an unprecedented period of globalization, do you believe that Australian designers have a unique aesthetic or attitude?

I can’t say exactly why, but Australian architects on a proportional comparative level, seem to be producing some of the best architecture on a global scale. I suspect the fact that we are a ‘young’ multicultural country with an element of isolation contributes to the ability to think laterally and creatively beyond the constraints possibly imposed by centuries of tradition.

How do you see design shaping the world around us?

Design has an impact on everything we do in our daily lives – from enhancing our morning coffee ritual by drinking from a beautifully designed, crafted cup, to impacting on the liveability of our cities. It is critical that design, a key shaping element of our cultural identity, is at the forefront of policy-making.

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Liminal with DesignInc Glenorchy Health Care Centre-Photo Dianna Snape

For you, what is the most challenging part of the design process and what is the most rewarding?

The most challenging part is nurturing a conservative client to be open to the potential of the project, trusting the expertise they have commissioned. The most rewarding is collaborating with people and communities that inspire and challenge us, where there is an open, fluid exchange of ideas and explorations, where all have the shared goal of producing the best possible outcomes for the project and aren’t stifled by egos. We are fortunate to be at the stage in our career where we can select our clients – we say yes to anyone who is visionary and driven by the desire to make a positive difference. It is also another reason why we stay small.

If you were give yourself an unrestricted creative brief, what this look like?

This would be my worst nightmare, as I need the constraints I constantly complain about, to create inventive solutions and to push the potential of a creative idea. It’s therefore fortunate I live on the Island of ultimate constraints! It means we have sharpened that creative, value-for-money pencil down to a tee.

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Liminal with WOHA, The Hedberg, Render Doug+Wolf

At Brickworks, we are devotees to good design, what do you look for in good design?

Firstly, I do want to acknowledge, (and I know I speak on behalf of a large contingent of architects and designers across Australia) how appreciative we are of the commitment Brickworks gives to the promotion of architecture and design excellence and the opportunities Brickworks provides for architects to cross-pollinate beyond the state boundaries. The benefits of the exchange that is enabled through these opportunities cannot be underestimated.

To answer the question, like all good art, performances and creative pursuits – good design has been executed when it moves you. Architecture is experiential.

Another sign of good design is achieving the reaction, ‘Of course!’ The reaction to an outcome that seems so obvious and clever – as if no other solution would have fitted as perfectly. We all know however, the effort required to reach this point. The more obvious and effortless it seems is the marker of incredible talent and design rigour. Another successful marker is, damn I wished I had thought of that!

And finally, who are your design heroes?

My design heroes are found within an array of creative fields that I draw upon constantly for inspiration, so not your traditional designer mentors as such – the top three are:

1. Sasha Waltz – a German choreographer based in Berlin. Her creativity coupled with the collaborative team she surrounds herself with, produces some of the most awe-inspiring performances that demonstrate a seamless integration of the ‘idea’ across all art/design forms to produce the final product. Her productions are exceptional.

2. Mira Schendel – a modernist artist who worked across multiple mediums. Her interdisciplinary interests feed a diverse body of work that is characterised through restraint and the ability to distil the essence of an idea with the most minimal means.

3. Maya Lin – as a site-specific artist, she has the skill of acknowledging the poetics of place through the experiential, while integrating a depth of meaning with poignant beauty, something we aspire to in our work.

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Sasha Waltz & Guests- Dialogue 09 performed at Neues Museum, Berlin - Photo Bernd Uhlig

Further information details

For further information on Peta Heffernan and her projects, please visit:

Architect: Peta Heffernan

Firm: Liminal Studio

Instagram: Liminal Studio

Article by brickworksbp

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