Careers In Art: Natalie Lysenko

Term: 3 Year: 2008


Natalie is a Melbourne based architect and partner in Judd Lysenko Marshall Architects (JLM) – a team committed to innovative and imaginative solutions in the fields of architecture and urban design. A new mum, Natalie balances her family life and her artistic pursuits.

When you were growing up what did you want to become?
Looking back it’s pretty clear that I was always meant to do something creative. I was always making things and was encouraged from a very young age to draw. I grew up in a house that was like an art gallery with sculptures in every corner and enormous paintings on every wall. I think this is where I developed an appreciation for beauty and beautiful things.

How long have you been in the industry?
I finished university at the end of 1999 and worked as a graduate architect for almost 5 years before I sat my registration exams. I have been practicing as a registered architect for three years.

What did you study at school and university?
I loved drawing and painting as well as photography and printmaking, so art was a natural choice for me, but I also studied English, Maths and a language.
I completed a Bachelor of Planning and Design and a Bachelor of Architecture with Honours at the University of Melbourne

Any career highlights?
Starting our own architectural practice would have to be a career highlight thus far – Judd Lysenko Marshall Architects or JLM. We currently have a house that has been short listed for the RAIA award – shall keep you posted!

Are there any peers that set the benchmark for you and for the industry?
Melbourne has lots of very good design architects and the standard of design is very high. All practices that strive to produce good buildings contribute to this and put pressure on the practices that do not produce good design to lift their game.

How do environmental concerns affect your work?
Buildings are responsible for a significant proportion of the energy we consume, both in their construction and occupation. Sustainable building is the biggest single issue facing Architects and it is something that we deal with from the beginning of each project to the end. It fundamentally affects the materials that we use and the way we compose them.

What is a day in the life of Natalie like?
Architects have a multifaceted job description. On any given day I spend time: making broad design decisions (sketching, 3D computer modelling, etc.), researching materials, resolving construction details, resolving construction disputes and issues, certifying completed construction on site, compiling building contracts, administering building contracts, overseeing the work of third party specialist consultants, negotiating with planning authorities and advisers, liaising with clients to ensure their needs are met, liaising with neighbours of clients to meet those needs, etc., etc. We often have projects at different stages and so some days, I do all of the above.

What is the difference between art and design – how have you embraced them into your work?
Thinking about how a person will use a space or how a building (or one of its elements) looks or is put together is the starting point for many decisions an Architect makes. I guess this means that making design decisions is my work, so (to me) design is about the consideration or focus. I like to think that the outcome or the realised design is art.

What are some of the negative aspects of your job?
The broad range of areas we are ‘experts’ in leads to a lot of liability and stress.
The building industry is extremely competitive and building contracts are approached aggressively from both builders and clients. The Architect is caught in the middle.
Too many buildings are boring. Despite what I said above about the state of design, there are still too many people who do not value good design.

With all the limitations and regulations of building what are the affects on your creativity?
Most art is created within a context or framework of thought. These are essentially constraints that an artist creates or assumes themselves and they are always more powerful than the constraints of the medium. Oil painting on canvas is a terribly constrained medium and yet people are still doing it and still producing work that is contemporary and relevant. The constraints of the building industry forces its artists to be very strategic, very rigorous and extremely patient.

What is something you would love to do that you haven’t already done?
I would love to go to New York.

Where do you get most of your inspiration?

How do you juggle work life balance?
It’s not possible to maintain a regular working day all of the time. There are periods where there is no option but to be completely absorbed in work. I try to balance this with periods where I take it pretty easy.

What period in art history inspires you the most?
I am inspired by the arts and crafts movement and modernism. One of my favourite architects is Frank Lloyd Wright – his buildings are complex but never complicated. His genius was creating simple, beautiful and harmonious buildings with a concern for the creation of space within.

What’s your favourite piece of work to date?
The Field of Bells in Birrarung Marr. The field of bells is a public sculpture that twice a day becomes a musical instrument. I was part of a large project team that included architects, musicians, acoustic, structural and lighting engineers.

What is your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
I have a number of items from Queen in Smith Street, they make fantastic clothes.

What book are you reading right now?
Right now… Kid Wrangling by Kaz Cooke. In my spare time… Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

Who would you most like to sit next to on a flight to Europe?
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – for a nice long chat about all the things that are important to me as an Australian and a citizen of the world.

If you were speaking to a secondary school student who was showing interest in following in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
Prepare for your friends to earn more money than you but your job will most likely be more satisfying than theirs.

Please visit for more information. Hopetoun house (pictured) has been shortlisted for the 2008 RAIA awards – we wish Natalie and all at JLM the best of luck.