Five Mile Radius is an architecture studio that has always been about more than just design projects. Founded in Brisbane by a group of young graduates including Clare Kennedy, Hunter Eccleston and Tom O'Shea, the practice began with a mission to advocate, educate, make and design. “More as a workshop for making than a traditional architecture studio,” Clare says.
With an interest in natural, local and recycled materials, Five Mile Radius now manufactures and sells furniture. The first ranges are tables made from crushed construction waste terrazzo, and stools made from reclaimed blackened timber. This has helped to diversify the income streams for the business and has necessitated the hiring of a more diversely skilled team. Now, alongside the original three, the studio employs Jack Hamilton (fabrication) and Ellie Farrington (carpentry), plus has a regular team of suppliers, contractors and freelancers working outside the business.
In terms of projects, the studio has created installations both interior and exterior and small-scale architectural structures and interiors, including for SWOP second-hand clothing stores. They even built a mud brick artist's residency in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh over a series of visits.
Many of these projects began as a material investigation and all of them have an innovative approach to materials at their core. In 2017 and 2018 the team created two installations for Love Jungle, a Queensland music festival. The first started with an education process learning about local timber and how to make shingles, before resulting in a fully informed temporary pavilion for the music festival. The following year, the team learned how to make cotton windsocks from scratch using Australian cotton which was processed entirely onshore. The resulting installation of 80 handmade windsocks mapped wind speed and direction in the landscape for festival-goers.
Another installation, in 2021, grew from a relationship they built with architect Russell Hall who is known for his own material experimentations.
As a result, the team fabricated a series of stacked ripple-patterned blocks to create three installations for Aesop's Queensland stores. The blocks were made from surplus concrete sourced from building sites —what is often called overpour or blowout.
Most recently, Five Mile Radius has been working on a project investigating post-demolition materials from commercial towers in central Brisbane. At 450 Queen Street, the team worked with the lead contractor Hutchinsons Builders to catalogue the waste created from the remodeling of one floor and found that standard practice was not to reuse or upcycle any materials. Instead, all materials would normally be downcycled, shredded, mulched or melted to form new, lower grade materials.
As part of the project, Five Mile Radius presented these findings in an exhibition, An Alternative Economics in April 2022, supported by the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane. The next step was to look at what materials they, as a studio, could reclaim. Dated office furniture made up much of the demolition material. This was transported to Five Mile Radius's workshop and used to create new furniture pieces including a suspended ceiling light, bench seat and accessories including knobs made from aluminium and recycled timber.
Moving forward, Five Mile Radius hopes to work with both architectural clients and as part of a larger project teams. Perhaps the upcycled items they make will go back into the same building. Or another. Either way, it's a win for keeping materials out of landfill. Plus, they have plenty more projects on the go including a pub, a commercial space and a pavilion at a community farm.
The name of the studio comes from the idea that you should get all your building materials from a five-mile radius. And while they don't let that definition limit them, the original ethos of the studio remains strong. “There's an environmental benefit to making our supply chains as simple and small as possible,” says Clare. “Our mission is: build with what you've got. Look closely at what's around you for a source of creative inspiration.”