Meet our Friends… Fresh Concept
‘Meet our Friends’ series is where we take a moment to celebrate and share a little about the diverse studios who make up our DA Friends.
Today we spoke to our friends Fresh Concept to learn more about their work in creative placemaking and how space and community are at the heart of what they do.
How would you define creative placemaking?
Placemaking is about bringing a sense of community and place to a space. When we talk about creative placemaking, this is a placemaking process that celebrates and platforms arts and culture strategies such as design, art, storytelling and community to create more vibrant places.
Tāmaki Makaurau is going through so much change at the moment, and we think that this process of creative placemaking is necessary to make that journey and transition accessible for the public.
Where are you based and what shape does the Fresh Concept team take?
Our office is based in Eden Terrace in Tāmaki Makaurau, right on the outskirts of the city centre. It’s nice and connected to everything, without being right in the middle of town!
We have a small core team, and we scale up and down throughout the year depending on key projects. We’re fortunate to have a strong network of contractors, creatives & suppliers whom we have grown alongside throughout our 12 years of business.
Can you share with us what a typical day at Fresh Concept looks like?
No two days at Fresh Concept are the same! The nature of our work does mean that the team is usually split between onsite and office work. Onsite our team may be installing a piece of temporary public artwork or checking in on a temporary public space that we’re managing or monitoring. In the office we’ll be busy on emails, communicating with clients, stakeholders or working on design. It’s all over the show! But we try every morning to have a full team hui which gives us the opportunity to share our current projects, and seek advice and opinions from the wider team. We’re really lucky that our small team allows us to do this.
Is there a project your team undertook in the last 12 months that was memorable because of its challenge? If so, what did you learn from it?
Early last year we took part in an EOI process and ultimately won the contract to become the Strategic Events Delivery Partner of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. This process, and the events and projects since that point have positively challenged us as an organisation.
This relationship has challenged us to question our own internal processes and ways of working. We have a new appreciation for giving projects time and space. It’s a journey we’re really grateful to be on, and something which will continue to shape us as an organisation.
What does the Fresh Concept design process and philosophy look like?
As a placemaking agency, when we look at design the first step is to consider the space itself and the people who live, work and play there. This involves looking at the history of the space, the key stakeholders and communities, and especially mana whenua.
Our work needs to fit within the space that it’s made for and enhance that space rather than compete with it. Often we’re working with really quick turnarounds and design assets that are for temporary use. It’s important for things to look good & professional – but ultimately the priority is the accessibility of the design, over just the aesthetics.
Which is not to say we’re not proud of the design we produce – we love to add to the vibrancy of a space with design that is fun, playful & experimental as well as practical. We have a love for including illustrative elements and playful colour schemes. We’re lucky that we have some great long term clients who give us a lot of trust and creative freedom with what we do. This gives us the ability to test and trial new things in the design space – and see what sticks!
Since covid, have you noticed a change in the way people respond to your work and has your team had to adjust the way you design for public spaces?
Part of our business is event and activation delivery, which was heavily impacted by Covid19. Some of the main considerations were around things like social distancing, numbers, and if we could even justify still putting things on. For us that meant that design was more important to our projects than ever. Instead of outdoor movies or workshops, we were back looking at the bones of spaces – how could we make these spaces better for people stumbling upon them? This redirected our focus to things like wayfinding, signage, and storytelling which was contact-free. We got creative and designed activations that were self guided instead.
We often talk about public spaces as Aucklanders’ backyards – and this was more true than ever in the pandemic. With higher density living, the pandemic highlighted the importance of accessible public space. We’re lucky to have tons of parks and reserves around the city, but in key areas like the CBD the importance of democratised, safe, comfortable outdoor space was definitely highlighted by lockdowns and restrictions.
What recent achievements or projects is the Fresh Concept team most proud of?
We’ve just come off our eighth Matariki on the Waterfront – a two-day festival of workshops, art installations, live music & performance, (and a whole lot more!) down at Silo Park.
As part of this year’s event, we worked with Hawke House on a very special art project with the tamariki of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. This project, “Stories of Matariki” saw nine aspring young artists aged 6 to 13 create an art piece about the meaning of their chosen whetū (star) from Te Iwa o Matariki (The Nine Stars of Matariki).
We then took these artworks and printed them onto ten large flags which flew in the heart of the event (and remained in Silo Park for a further week afterwards). Getting to see these young Māori artists have their artwork and stories displayed in a key part of the city, at a major event, with Te Tomokanga ki te Pō – a 26 foot waharoa by Graham Tipene (that we collaborated on last matariki) glowing by them – that felt really special.
And finally, where to next for Fresh Concept, what is your team working towards for 2022/23?
There’s lots of exciting things on the horizon for us, both internally and externally!
We are part of the team who have just been selected to design Te Ara Tukutuku, a new headland park in the Wynyard Quarter. We’re among great company for this project, the team includes LandLAB, Warren & Mahoney, Stellar, Watt Macdonald & Scape Landscape Architecture, the latter of which joins us from New York. This project will be a meaningful partnership with mana whenua and Eke Panuku Development Auckland to deliver a park of significance not only for Tāmaki Makaurau, but for all of Aotearoa. It’s a really exciting project, with great values and collaborators and we can’t wait to dive in.
Overall we’re looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as an organisation, and as the individuals who work here. We want to continue to build our relationship with mana whenua, be a constant for our clients in a fast-moving world, and continue to tackle challenges with collaboration and creativity.