Ms Barrett became an architect by accident. She wanted to study science but her dad had encouraged her to study architecture. To please her dad, and thinking she wouldn’t achieve the grades required to get in, she put architecture first on her university application form. “Well I did get into architecture and in hindsight my dad was right”, said Ms Barrett. “I love making things. My parents were in the shoe industry so as a child I was always making things from shoe boxes – from multi-level dolls houses to massive cardboard cubby houses!”
After completing her university qualifications, Ms Barrett initially worked at one of Perth’s largest architecture firms. She was fortunate to work on a number of interesting projects but found that as part of a large team she wasn’t as engaged in the process of “making” as she would have liked. “So I made the decision to set up my own practice”, said Ms Barrett. “I take on small projects where I can be really hands on, working with my clients from design to final delivery.”
Alongside her architecture work, Ms Barret run the Open House Perth events, which she founded in 2011 after meeting the global founder. Open House is an international initiative that provides the public with rare behind-the-scenes access to explore a wide range spaces over one weekend a year - from people’s homes to corporate buildings and skyscrapers, rooftops, heritage buildings and unique restricted areas.
Ms Barrett put an extraordinary amount of time and energy into Open House Perth each year but is quick to note the others involved. “The event has had incredible support over the years”, she said. “About 1000 people have been involved to date. There are so many people who have been part of the story. It wouldn’t be possible without them.”
Ms Barrett’s favourite Open Houses spaces over the years are the smaller houses. For example, Exploding Shed House by David Weir, House A by Kate Fitzgerald, and Orange Avenue and Hope Street by Vittino Ashe. “These projects show people that you don’t need lots of space,” she said. “Personally, I live in a 100sqm house on a 200sqm lot with my husband, child and dog – and until this year my house was also the Open House headquarters!”
While Ms Barrett has favourite spaces, her favourite part about Open House Perth is the people. She loves seeing others enjoy the event, and even found herself crying tears of joy a few years ago when 1500 people visited a home in one morning. “It’s great to see how good design can lift people’s spirits”, she said. “People may not be able to understand architectural plans and drawings, but everyone understands great spaces. Open House Perth helps people to see what’s possible”.
As well as devoting her time to Open House Perth, Ms Barrett established her own practice in 2014, Project857, along with her buisness partner Stephen Corns. Project857 is a design office led by powerful women in our industry, focused on delivering high-quality projects with the goal of exceeding client expectations.