Friday, October 10, 2008

Interview - Mick Frazzetto

Bosistos Liquor Bar in Bridge rd, Richmond - architect Mick Frazzetto


More Bosistos

Bosistos exterior

Mick Frazzetto's 'Stack' modular shelving system - available from Tongue and Groove, Collingwood.

Mick Frazzetto is a talented young architect who works at well respected Melbourne firm Six Degrees. Like many passionate architects, he always seems to have a side project on the go - he designs the odd bit of furniture, retailing through Tongue and Groove in Collingwood (well known for their support of emerging designers), and recently he also designed the fit-out for Richmond's newest Bar - Bosistos on Bridge rd.

Mick's latest project is the design and release of a new product through Tongue and Groove - named the 'Pop Tree', this eco-friendly Xmas tree is constructed from water-cut ecopanel (a new-ish building material made from recycled plastics, and resembling a kind of rigid fibrous felt). The tree features pop-out 'baubles' which can be interchanged with different coloured ecopanel inserts, and
can also be decorated like an ordinary Xmas tree (if you wish).

Pop Tree - available from Tongue and Groove, Collingwood

Despite his many talents, Mick is incredibly modest about his achievements - I've known him for a long time and didn't realise until I compiled this interview that he had studied in Copenhagen and even worked in Amsterdam earlier in his career! He seems to have squeezed a lot into the last five years - I guess after 10 years at uni, he was very motivated to get his designs out into the world!

After 5 years at Six Degrees, Mick is about to make the big move to NYC for work with his partner Ellen (also an architect). Exciting times ahead! I've no doubt we'll be hearing a lot more about their work in the years to come!

Read on for an insight into Mick's career and creative influences, his thoughts on the 'dark side of architecture' ("mind-numbing window and door schedules"),
and his love of Brunswick's A1 Bakery!

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you're doing now?

I spent a long time at melb uni (10 years!) before finally receiving qualifications in planning and architecture. During this period I studied in the urban design department under Jan Gehl at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen. This experience was easily the most important period of learning for me. I also did the travel thing and and worked for a short period in Amsterdam as an alleged architect. I’ve been at Six Degrees since graduating in 2003.

Mick busy at the cutting board in the Six Degrees office, located in the vaults on the Yarra River (underneath Federation Square). photo - Paul Allister

Six Degrees have quite a reputation in Melbourne, and are famously credited for reviving Melbourne’s laneways with Meyers Place over a decade ago. These are big boots to fill! What initially appealed to you about working for a company like Six Degrees? How does an emerging architect like yourself fit in at Six Degrees - are the senior partners encouraging of the next generation of architects coming up through the ranks?

I did not seek out Six Degrees. Getting the job was more a matter of circumstance and luck. I happened to be playing table tennis at the public office one day when Peter Mallatt (one of the directors) asked me mid-rally if I wanted to work for them. I had been labouring on Pete’s house and of course loved Meyers Place, so was keen on the offer.

Six Degrees is a great office to work at. The six directors have different personalities and design tactics which you learn to negotiate, respond to and learn from... it’s cheesy but it’s like having 6 mentors. They are also very generous with the designs so everyone, from the students up, get a lot of input.

More shots of Six Degrees' fantastic office space where Mick works - they were greatly limited by the small size of the space and the heritage restrictions of the building... but nothing beats looking out onto the Yarra through those fantastic vault windows! photos - Paul Allister

Six Degrees have a distinctly recognisable architectural style – often using recycled materials and experimenting with unusual building materials (form-ply!) to create an eclectic, ‘low-tech’ aesthetic. How has this style influenced your own aesthetic? How does your own sensibility sit with the Six Degrees signature look?

Yes, I have definitely been influenced by their approach especially when it comes to their use of materials. ‘Honest’ material selection is the key with the excessive use of plasterboard for instance viewed as an easy cop out. I have to come to enjoy researching materials and exploiting their potential.

You have also dabbled in furniture design in the last few years, and have had success selling your designs at Tongue and Groove in Collingwood. What inspired you to diversify into furniture design, and what aspirations to you have for this side-project?

My inspiration for product design probably comes from the material thing I learnt at Six Degrees. The products I’ve designed have more to do with learning about the qualities of a material than creating a nice looking object. Often, I find an interesting material and think “what could I design with this?” The object is more an outcome of the properties inherent in the material than it’s use. It’s probably why I don’t sell that much stuff! Product design is also a lot more immediate than architecture – best of all objects don’t require a planning permit.

Mick's 'Cube' modular storage - again available at Tongue and Groove

When you approach a brief initially, where do you turn for inspiration – books, magazines, the web etc?

That’s a tough one.. I think travel helps. Otherwise I’m not too sure.

Which designers, architects, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

I’ve always liked Ray and Charles Eames and their multidisciplinary approach to design. There’s always this joyful, playful thing going on with their work, not dissimilar to the Six Degrees guys actually, which I think is the key. You have to enjoy what you do no? One of the Six Degrees directors in particular has really taught me to enjoy the process and to not take things too seriously... I wont say his name.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

At the moment I’m working my way through a heap of mind-numbing window and door schedules. It’s the dark side of architecture your rarely hear about in the mags (or your blogs).

What are you most proud of professionally?

Seeing anything built. You’d be amazed how little gets built in the end.

Mick's entry for the Australia Biennale Pavilion in Venice

What's the best thing about your job?

As above

And the worst?

Window and door schedules.

What would be your dream project?

No idea. Something overseas perhaps.

What are you looking forward to?

An upcoming trip to New York.

Melbourne Questions –

What are you favourite examples of contemporary architecture in Melbourne – either small scale or large developments?

I think I’m more into stuff from the past like your Boyds and Rombergs. Otherwise I’d have to go with Brisbane Architects Donovan Hill but they haven’t done anything down here yet. There’s also this great little firm in Brunswick called Multiplicity whose work I respect a lot.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

That’s easy. A1 Bakery, Sydney Rd Brunswick.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

A1 Bakery

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

A1 Bakery .. although I’m guessing it’s not much of a secret these days

Thanks so much Mick!


  1. Wow - what awesome offices -no wonder they do such inspired work every time!

  2. yes yes aren't they great!? Such a fantastic location, love all the exposed brick and and those fab vault windows! They are quite small though!

    I think perhaps when they were doing the fit out for Riverland (next door) they decided to try and get their hands on the vaults next door for their offices? I think?

  3. Ah the evils of door and window schedules! If only someone was brave enough to blog exactly how tedious this process can be! Architecture is definitely not as glamourous (or as well paid) as most people think, so it's refreshing to see great Australian architecture firms receiving (positive!) attention, not to mention being represented by humble lads like Mr Frazzetto.