CityMag – AKA studio break new ground in SA
They're all female and all about doing good work.
Katherine Dujmovic and Amy Grundy do more than architecture.
Together, the pair recently launched their practice, AKA Also Known As. The name of the business, says Amy, reflects their holistic approach to design.
“We do everything within our business – we don’t just do architecture, we do interior design, furniture design, selecting furniture, everything that really comes within the whole entire project,” says Amy.
Prior to AKA, Katherine and Amy worked together for more than six years – first as students of architecture at UniSA and then as colleagues at Hardy Milazzo and John Adams Architects. Around all this, the pair invested their out-of-office time in residential projects.
After all that, the joint business seemed inevitable and it was not long before their after-hours practice became their main practice.
“We still did the sole trader stuff for about four months, but we were working so closely together when we were on our own, and were like ‘why are we doing it twice?’ So, we decided to bring our eventual merge together earlier than we expected and joined forces,” says Katherine.
And so, AKA was born.
Katherine says that, in the beginning, AKA was about their strong friendship, understanding work/life balance, and forging close relationships with their clients. However, as the studio established itself, the pair stumbled upon a larger discussion about gender equality in South Australia.
“We started to realise that we couldn’t find any fully female-run architecture firms in Adelaide. When we started to look at who could we go to for help in the industry, who are the people that could mentor us, everyone we knew in that position in the industry were male,” says Katherine.
“When we started to look at the females that we knew, they were all in supporting roles, so lecturers or the institutes – they weren’t actually running the companies. So, we started to think: ‘how can we change this? How can we start looking at equality?’ And that’s where we’ve started to focus – equality for men and women in the industry.”
Katherine and Amy say that though there are a number of female-run interior and graphic design companies in the state, female-run architecture companies are harder to come by, and that is something they are hoping to change.
“We’ve joined GET Group – Gender Equality Taskforce in South Australian architecture,” says Katherine. “It’s part of an association of women in architecture. And it’s not just for women, it’s for men too – it’s about equality.”
For Amy – one of the biggest challenges for women in any industry is that age-old issue of having kids, but it’s something they’re hoping to make in-roads on at AKA.
“What do you do when you have children? I think this is a landmark, having two females running the company,” she says.
“Imagine if we both have babies at the same time… How do you manage that? We’re working that for us, but we also want it to be so it then becomes a lot easier for other women in the same situation. Even just knowing where to go and who to speak to.”
Of course, AKA is not all about tackling inequality. Like any new practice directors, the thing that gets Katherine and Amy most excited is their work.
Some of their proudest projects so far include Bond & Lane Canteen in Goodwood, and Jimmy Smith’s Dairy, which is a bed and breakfast in Port Elliot. Katherine and Amy are also currently working on a number of large-scale residential projects across the country, but are working towards buying and renovating houses.
The distant future holds a similar plan with cafés, “but,” Amy says, “that’s way down the track.”
One thing is clear though – CityMag sees nothing but good things ahead for them.