Building a Business: An interview with local architect Cassie Stronach

In the past the Roost has been known as a starting point for young creatives (creatives meaning graphic designers, illustrators, photographers etc.). This month we’re excited to share with you the story of one of our newest Roosters, architect Cassie Stronach. She comes to us with years of experience in a creative field we haven’t had much of at the Roost, and she opened our eyes to what it’s like to work a job that’s not photography or graphic design.
 
For the last four years Cassie (32) has been successfully running her own architecture and interior design business, Group D.

Cassie Stronach

She shared a day in her life…
 
“Yesterday I got up at seven, was on site by eight. I did a measure up at the lake, then I went to another site visit in Warner’s Bay to talk to a builder about structure. Then I went to see another project that’s just finishing in Hamilton, and then onto a fourth site visit on Darby St,” she said. (This was all before noon.) 
 
“I try not to be out in the car a lot so I schedule it all in one hit,” she explained. “In the afternoon I was working in CAD (computer aided design software), and I was drawing up one of the projects I’d measured that morning. I went to a meeting at the end of the day with the Institute of Architects (our representative body) to talk about events they will be running this year. Then I went for a cider!”
 
Along with running her business, Cassie was running a co working space for 3 years, with a similar philosophy to the Roost’s called D Space, Built Environment Collective. In December 2015 she decided to merge her group with the Roost much to our delight! 
 
“The Roost was appealing to me because it was taking the pressure off running two businesses. I wanted to focus my attention on my architecture business, and the Roost offered the opportunity to do this while still contributing to a co-working space” Cassie said. 
 
Before returning to Newcastle, Cassie spent four years working for an architecture firm in Sydney, which taught her how to run her own business. 
 
“You have to be creative, but you also have to be extremely organised,” she said. “I learnt a lot of techniques, so that I have the confidence to tackle bigger projects.”

The recently completed Arena Apartments for which Group D did the interior design. This photo was provided by Habitat Living who styled this shoot with their ‘Styled by Habitat’ service from the curtains to the furnishing.

She loves the mental stimulation that comes with architecture.
 
“I like that it’s always new and exciting in terms of using both sides of the brain, you have to be scientific/specific in your understanding of structures and service coordination etc. but you also get to be creative. It’s great mental gymnastics!” she said.
 
Cassie’s also a people person. She likes to see clients realise their dreams and that she’s able to facilitate it. 
 
“At the end of the day it’s not my project, it’s their project,” she said. 
 
One of the drivers that lead Cassie to starting her own business was an art project she did for the Vivid Light Festival 2012 in Sydney. Her team was selected to create a piece while she was still working for a firm in Sydney. After Vivid they were invited to tour the project around Australia, including Newcastle.

Cassie’s light sculpture was featured at Vivid in Sydney. The piece was mobile and even came to Newcastle. In this photo by Newcastle Harbour, Cassie is actually next to the sculptures on her bicycle.

The experience with Vivid gave her confidence. From there she started picking up more and more little jobs, and before she knew it, she was in business. It’s now been four years, and she’s where she wants to be in her career. Financially she’s doing better than if she was working in the corporate world. All her files are in the Cloud, so she can work from anywhere. She’s never had to directly market her company, and she believes business should be personable and face-to-face. 
 
“I’m very artistic and people focused; sometimes I don’t have an employee, sometimes I do, but generally there’s some kind of collaboration,” she said. “For example I have a client Dr Jacey Pryjma who is building a new children’s chiropractic centre, the Australian Children’s Chiropractic Centre. We’re collaborating with an artist, Liz Anelli and urban gardeners Victory Gardens on that project.”

Cassie’s concept for the children’s chiropractic centre.

Justine Ulph is the urban gardener for the project, and she and Cassie designed the Hunter Street Mall Victory Garden located next to the Roost (which Roost members now tend to.)

A sketch for what would eventually become the Hunter Street Mall Victory Garden

Examples of Group D’s work are all over Newcastle. Last year they designed the extension to Merewether Surfhouse which involved a new office space, foyer for the functions level and extension to the deck on the top floor.

The interior of the function level foyer at Merewether Surfhouse

“What was rewarding was that it’s already an iconic building that is well documented. I looked at what the original architects had done and tried to create an addition that was respectful to and in keeping with the original architecture. It’s a very interesting location; the design has to be extremely robust to resist the saline environment, and there were challenges with adding on to an existing post-tensioned structure.”

Merewether Surfhouse extension under construction

In the next few years Cassie sees herself continuing to work locally on beautiful architectural projects, and she hopes to stay at the Roost for as long as she can. Recently she was appointed Roost Treasurer and Board Member, something she’s excited about particularly with her background in running creative spaces.

“It’s not about the cheap rent, it’s about the experience. I’d like to be part of growing the Roost into a really sustainable model,” she said.
 
We’re glad and grateful to have her!
 
To learn more about Group D visit http://www.groupdcreative.com/
 
To learn more about the Roost visit http://theroostcreative.com.au/

Cassie recently returned from a study tour of Spanish tile factories Decorativa and Porcelanosa with local company Earp Bros Tiles . Pictured here are hand made tiles that have note even hit the market yet.