Five questions with Sydney Open Ambassador Isabelle Toland

1. Describe your relationship with architecture

I feel very strongly that architecture has the ability to shape our moods and our outlook on life. It can make us happy, depressed, joyful and in leave us in awe of the world we live in. For me, this is what I love about working in architecture. It is a huge responsibility, privilege and opportunity to improve the everyday lives of many, to take them by surprise, inspire and delight.

2. What is your favourite building in the world and why?

There are so many buildings in the world I love, and all for different reasons, but my favourite building I think would have to be Peter Zumthor’s Brother Klaus Field Chapel in Germany. I love its formal simplicity and how the proportions of it change from tall and slender, to broad and low – depending on which angle you look at it from. I love the patterns of light streaming through the glass beads embedded in the concrete walls. But most of all I love the story of how it was constructed – layer upon layer of concrete, poured over 24 days, around a tent-like structure of 112 locally-felled pine trees, which, once the concrete form was completed, were set alight and left to burn away slowly over the course of 3 weeks, the burnt-out logs leaving traces of a charred corrugated smoke-scented surface to the interior of the chapel.

3. As an ambassador for Sydney Open 2017 what is your best advice to people wanting to explore the program?

Sydney Open is an incredible opportunity to see inside and find out the stories of all sorts of places you’ve always wondered about. It only happens once a year, so make the most of it. See as much as you can and go to a variety of places – in type, size and location – from private residential places, to major public buildings and industrial or infrastructural spaces.

4. Why does heritage matter and why is an event like Sydney Open so important?

Heritage is about uncovering the stories of a place - the layers of history of a site, from before a building was even there. The heritage of a place and its stories give it significance, value and meaning. Sydney Open is an opportunity to hear those stories and to share them with the broader community - allowing us, as people, to connect with that place, and with each other through these stories.

5. Finish this sentence “What I love about Sydney is…”

The coastline. Whenever I fly over Sydney, the pattern of the rivers meeting the harbour and the coast is constantly fascinating. It’s like no other place. 

Isabelle Toland

Isabelle Toland

Director of Aileen Sage Architects

Isabelle has worked for award winning practices in Sydney and overseas, including renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban in his Paris office and at Neeson Murcutt Architects in Sydney. During her time at Neeson Murcutt Architects, Isabelle was project coordinator on the Castlecrag House (AIA Robin Boyd Award 2011) and Prince Alfred Park upgrade (AIA Walter Burley Griffin Award, AIA NSW Lloyd Rees Award). Isabelle has taught, lectured and spoken about art and architecture at numerous institutions including UTS, NIDA, the Art Gallery of NSW and Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. Isabelle is a recipient of the Sydney University Medal, the RAIA Design Medal Commendation and the Byera Hadley Student Travelling Scholarship.