Adding more than a gram of style to South Australia
Initially starting out his career as a model maker at Adelaide’s HASSELL Studio, University of South Australia alumnus and one half of the creative brain behind studio-gram Dave Bickmore has spread his creative talent and style across South Australia to award winning acclaim.
Since its inception in 2014, studio-gram has churned out some of Adelaide’s most recognisable restaurants, cafes, and bars. The minimal sleekness of Pirie Street’s Abbots & Kinney, the smooth soulful tones of Union Street’s Mr. Goodbar, and the black and brass accents of the Barossa Valley’s St Hugo – Dave and his creative partner, UniSA Alumnus Graham Charbonneau, have been responsible for it all.
With each project they take on, they manage to consistently reinvent themselves, while still keeping a consistent style throughout each fit out, something they have become known for.
“We are probably known for our inventive use of space, material, and colour, but the thing that probably defines us the most is narrative – every project has a story that relates to the client and the people that will use the space.”
Their designs have become iconic across Adelaide’s landscape and the boys have gained significant attention from it. Their fit out for Pirie Street’s Osteria Oggi alone has won them the 2016 Robert Dickson Award for Interior Architecture and the prestigious 2016 World Interiors News Award for Restaurant Interiors. And this growing success has allowed them to start projects both interstate and overseas. Despite the success, Dave says studio-gram still critically considers which projects to take on.
“We only take on projects that interest us and offer something exciting. We don’t have projects that just pay the bills like some practices. Each project is treated with the same respect and investigations as the last, and are celebrated in their own way.”
Growing up in the Riverland town of Renmark, design has always been in his roots. His dad, a panel-beater turned winemaker, taught him to weld at the age of 10, and his love for making and creating only continued to grow from there.
“I’ve always loved making things and my friends remind me a lot that I had always said I was going to be an architect and I can only attribute this to my upbringing.”
During his time studying both a Bachelor and Masters of Architecture at UniSA, Dave was lucky enough to land a job at international practice HASSELL as a model maker. He worked on projects such as prototyping the roof structures of Adelaide Oval’s Western Grandstands, before being offered a fulltime position after graduating. He went on to work on a number of projects including the University of Adelaide Learning Hub and St Aloysius College Year 12 centre development.
After spending four years working at HASSEL, Dave decided it was time to move on, opening up studio-gram with Graham Charbonneau. Since its initial conception, the practice has grown to include three more staff members, all of which are UniSA graduates.
In 2012 Dave received the Jack Hobbs McConnell Fellowship, providing him with exposure to architecture in the Middle East, Europe, Norway, London, New York, and Hong Kong, with his research exploring the concept of architecture informing the identity of place. These travels helped inform Dave’s own work when he returned to Adelaide, citing it as a major influence in many of studio-grams projects.
“Travel has become one of the biggest influencers of our work. It inspires us, recharges us, and some of our best narratives are off the back of travel – the unexpected encounters, and the beautiful people we have met all over the world.
“It keeps us in touch with what is happening around the world, not just in the most recent design mag, but also in the backstreets of the most unexpected places.
“That is where our ‘real’ ideas are born.”
Despite Dave’s travels around the globe, he still decisively maintains that Adelaide is studio-gram’s main home.
“We are firmly grounded here in South Australia by family and friends, but choose to operate here in SA as we are surrounded by talented people.
“That said, we also aim to open a second office in New York within the next few years as a way of getting Graham closer to his family in Canada, and test ourselves against the best in the industry in what we consider to be the epicentre of the design world.”
So what does it take to be an award winning designer by the time you hit 30? Along with surrounding yourself with good people, and not being afraid to ask for advice, Dave says the main glistening golden key on the chain of success is being able to break the rules.
“We once read an article entitled ‘20 things not to do when starting your own architecture practice’. We did all 20 of them.”