In Conversation with David Flack on Flack Studio's Open Library

Since its inception in 2014, Flack Studio has oriented itself within the design landscape as much more than an interior design studio. Based in Melbourne, the studio’s work traverses the globe in both situation and relevance and at its heart is a growing library of art and design books which help inspire the rich antipodean ambiance which rests within the places and spaces the studio shapes.

We spoke with Principal David Flack about the value of the library, why the studio’s late Principal, Mark Robinson decided to open it to the public in a gesture that has since become a part of his legacy, and what the space cultivates within the local art and design community and beyond.

Open Journal (OJ) | Why did Mark decide to open the Flack Studio Open Library to the public? How does the sharing of literary resources contribute to the social and cultural fabric and broader design discourse?

David Flack (DF) | Inspired by the endless joy and inclusively fostered by public libraries, which have always been the cornerstone of local communities, we strive to create a studio that has an open-door policy. Besides people, books are our number one resource. With a collection of 850+ interior, architecture, fashion, art, and general design reference books in our studio, we felt it was only right to share them with fellow design and art lovers.

The more people have access to these types of books, the broader their sense of the infinite potential of design becomes which helps us develop a better understanding of what matters, what works best for different people, and ultimately how we can design better.

We want our Open Library days to be a way of sharing this valuable resource, to remind people that reading is fundamental and that there’s always something new to learn.

Maxwell Residence, by Flack Studio

OJ | Libraries have been incorporated into a number of Flack Studio projects — Ace Hotel, Maxwell Residence and your most recent project in Tamarama — and we’d love to hear more about why and how this has come about?

DF | The Maxwell Residence is the largest residential library we’ve designed. The clients were bookworms just like us and needed enough space for their children’s tutoring. Being surrounded by books creates an environment that promotes curiosity and fosters sustained attention. It also provides a place of escapism within the home to retreat and rejuvenate.

The inclusion of books and libraries in our projects is also another way for us to share our accumulated knowledge with our clients. We love the quote by Argentine writer and journalist Carlos Maria Dominguez: “To build up a library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books.” As our clients grow, so too will their libraries to reflect their changing lives. This notion speaks to Flack Studio’s philosophy of designing spaces that evolve with the lives of the people who occupy them, those that simultaneously respect the past while casting an eye to the future.

Tamarama, by Flack Studio

OJ | I understand that the Open Library day held once a month also features a guest speaker. What does this convergence add to the experience of the library? What immersive layers does it cultivate? Who is the featured guest speaker for the next open day?

DF | Open Library guest speakers come from our vibrant Art and Design community. During months when we also host Plinth Drinks, a program celebrating emerging Australian Artists, the Open Library is always held on the following Saturday.

The talks present an opportunity for the public to see how books are incorporated and utilised differently by our peers in the Art and Design community. Our last guest, Danielle Brustman, spoke about her favourite book Architectural Polychromy by Le Corbusier, which has helped inform her practice over the last 10 years.

Our next guest speaker will be joining us from Sydney, so stay tuned to our Instagram for the announcement.

OJ | What is the overarching plan for the library? How often are books added and how do they fit into the studio's conceptual design stage for a project?

DF | We rely heavily on books at the commencement of a project. The team is encouraged to utilise the books in our library to explore and flesh out ideas or push past a brain block. A lot of the design process can be spent on computers, so having this analog exercise of physically going to a book and scanning a page helps us stay inspired and stimulated. So often our point of view is limited to what’s available online, but a substantial printed book can present a designer’s life work, unfiltered by the bias of search engines.

We restock the library every two months, with the new books first displayed on our “Pleasure Wall” which features about 25 books. We curate each rotation to bring fresh inspiration to the team. Sometimes it reflects what’s happening in our projects, other times it’s based on travel. Currently, the Pleasure Wall is full of books I’ve collected during recent travels in Europe. Honourable mentions are: ‘Renewing the city from the Within' (Carayride Print) and Noguchi (Flammarion Print).

OJ | What can people expect when they come to an Open Library Day?

DF | A warm and inviting space that is open to everyone. A new extended studio, filled with books, art, plants, members of the Flack Studio team and other book lovers who are also there to share their interests in design and art. Open Library is held from 11-2 on the first Saturday of each month (unless announced on Instagram) with a guest speaker, who will share their love of books, art, design, and architecture. These talks start at midday with a 45-minute presentation and a 15 min Q&A. We make our desks and all the breakout spaces available for guests to then spend the day immersed in design.

OJ | What is it about books that brings so much value to the world?

DF | The best thing about books is that they don’t discriminate. As readers we have the opportunity to be introduced into a new world or way of thinking without prejudice. We focus on this belief by continuously pushing for an extensive collection of books that people can relate to or learn from.

This month, we’re excited to be expanding available resources in the library with information around The Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum. In the lead up to this day, space for conversation is vital. Flack Studio endeavours to be a place of open discourse with the intention of encouraging learning and respect.

Knowledge is power, making books, as the storers of knowledge and information, one of the most valuable objects in our society.

Special thanks to David Flack. See more of Flack Studio's work on their Website and Instagram. Interview complied by Tiffany Jade. Open Library images by Katy Roubin. Flack Studio project images by Anson Smart.