Emerging Architect's Prize // ESTHER CHEW

Esther Chew


A huge congratulations to Esther Chew of Grieve Gillett Andersen for taking out this years SA Emerging Architect Prize. Esther was awarded the Prize at the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) SA Chapter's 2017 SA Architecture Awards and we were keen to find out more about this wonderfully talented woman, beyond the (albeit) extensive list of her achievements.


Keep reading for Esther's take on life, design and inspiration.


I REALISED I WAS GOING TO BE AN ARCHITECT WHEN // I don't think there was such a moment when I thought that's it, I'm going to be an architect.
It's a process. And I'm still kinda figuring it out.

Architects // For me, there are few works like that of Peter Zumthor.
Mentors // There are many, but if I had to name the most influential, it will be


  • Jan Liebe and Hielda Gonzalez (my UEL tutors)
    who thought me intuition

  • John Jenkins (my first 'boss')
    who thought me professionalism


And my mum. Who thought me how to work hard and raise a family.

I AM INSPIRED BY // Stories of travellers venturing to far off places.. for extended periods of time...

FAVOURITE PROJECT // Thermal Baths in Vals, by Peter Zumthor.

MOST MEMORABLE ONSITE EXPERIENCE // Sliding down the water slide at Port Lincoln Indoor Aquatic Centre.
Can't do a proper defects inspection in a pool unless you go for a swim in it!

GREATEST DESIGN DILEMMA // In ground Service pits that don't line up. I mean seriously - they are everywhere!

MOST PROUD DESIGN SUCCESS // National World War I and World War II Memorial, Canberra.
I was working on the project at Mulloway Studio. Our project was 1 of 3 shortlisted for the 2 staged international design competition.
Although we didn't win it ultimately, the project has been featured as one of 10 unbuilt projects in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Kimchi soup. Uncomplicated, delicious bowl goodness after a long day's work. And a cold beer of course.

MY DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS IS // Watching the horizon.
There's something about the constant line that divides the sky and the rest of us.
Always, always puts a smile on my face.

GOOD DESIGN MEANS // To be idealistic; good design should help make lives better.
To be poetic; good design means things should feel like they belong, like they've always been there and it was always meant to be.
To be me - it should do both the above, but also with beauty.
Pragmatic. Contextual. Beautiful.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT BEING AN ARCHITECT // In my professional practice, I seek out work of a public nature. These projects are often complex and multifaceted, but to me, they have the opportunity to draw together the many strands of place-making, environmental stewardship, social equity and economic viability into creation of places with distinct beauty and identity.
It makes architecture memorable. It makes the practice or architecture a pleasure!

Although I've never been there.
It's a running joke between my husband and I, that if he should find that I'm missing one day, that's where I'll be.

GREATEST STRENGTH // My 'boss' said in my nomination for the emerging architect prize that 'I overcame process setbacks and resultant frustration with grace and renewed determination.'
I think there is some truth in the statement.

MY VICE OR WEAKNESS // Salt and vinegar chips.
Or Haighs dark chocolate pastimes.
I keep an emergency stash in my second drawer in my office for the cloudy days!

IF I HAD A SUPER POWER, IT WOULD BE... // The ability to stop time
...Then I can take a siesta or a nap when I want!

THE THING THAT DRIVES ME TO SUCCEED // I like what I do and I do what I like. And to that ends I like to do it well.
Life's too short to indulge in mediocrity - Be it for a cake, or a building.

Also see below for the AIA's citation for Esther's receipt of the SA Emerging Architect Prize.



Esther graduated from the University of Adelaide in 2007 and registered as an architect in 2014. After graduating she worked at Mulloway Studio Architects for eight years before moving to Grieve Gillet Andersen where she has worked for the past two years.


During her time at university she was the SONA representative, as well as serving on SONA’s National Committee as the Director of Publications and editor of TERRA. Once graduating she participated in NAG activities and established a quarterly event called ‘15’ that created a platform for designers to share ideas. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Architects, National Australia Women in Construction and Open Architecture Network.


Some of her notable works include the Harts Mill project and the Anzac Centenary Memorial Walk. She has completed a Masters in Development Studies and is currently working with an NGO in Nepal master planning a girls Bible College.


Esther has continuously shown a willingness to contribute to things which are not tied back to furthering her own professional position but rather directly focused on delivering the benefits of her architectural knowledge more broadly.


As a contribution through leadership we think that Esther’s demonstration of a successful career, raising children, still contributing to pro bono projects and being able to lead high profile outcomes is a worthy exemplar to other young practitioners. We are pleased to be able to able to recognise her continuing contribution to the practice of architecture with this award.


Image & Citation // provided by the AIA


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