Sibling Architecture's Jane Caught discusses their New Agency project and exhibition at RMIT's Design Hub

Sibling Architecture's Jane Caught discusses their New Agency project and exhibition at RMIT's Design Hub
Laurence DragomirAugust 28, 2018

New Agency: Owning Your Future is a live research project and exhibition at RMIT Design Hub designed by Sibling Architecture, which is aimed at forecasting our future housing design and dynamics by exploring the links between ageing and design in the future. 

Posing the questions ‘Who do you wish to grow old with? Will your house outlive you? What kind of ancestor do you want to be? What will your future housing look like?’, the exhibition invites visitors to be actively involved in Sibling’s research, as they investigate and discuss how we might live in the future; with friends in shared housing, as grey nomads or possibly multi-generations house sharing.

Over four weeks, New Agency transforms Design Hub into a live research platform; gathering data, public conversations, design speculation and feedback about what constitutes home ownership during the later stages of life.

As the retirement of Australians relies upon the asset of the family home (with superannuation), and as home ownership is becoming an impossibility for a huge swathe of younger Australians, how does this influence future models of living for the elderly, including financing aged care, retirement and intergenerational wealth?

What can we learn from upwardly mobile grey nomads, multi-generational living or enclaves of like-minded people? A dataset of trends, interviews and a troika of interactive activity chambers – for reading, listening and talking – provoke thinking around these topical questions.

Sibling Architecture's Jane Caught discusses their New Agency project and exhibition at RMIT's Design Hub asked Sibling Architecture co-founder Jane Caught to provide some background behind the exhibition and research project, including their interest in the subject and what they hope to attain from the project. What prompted the office's interest in exploring the dynamics between ageing and design in the future? 

Jane Caught: At the core of SIBLING's design approach is designing in a way to encourage and nurture social interaction in an increasingly individualistic world. We wish to engage with all people, as diverse as that may be, and designing FOR universal access rather than thinking of it as an add on has always been at the forefront.

We were uncomfortable with the idea that older people in society are thought of as a burden, or an problem to be solved, and shocked at the levels of ageism we observed. We will all get older, and many of us will become elderly, if we are lucky.

As a practice we want to investigate how our built environment can best accommodate our elongated lives in a meaningful way, that still allows older people control over the way they live their lives. We realised it may be necessary to start planning quite early for the type of living arrangement you would like in the future, especially as home ownership in general is increasingly becoming harder to obtain for many Australians.

U: What are some of the key challenges of designing for an ageing population and ensuring quality design caters for people of various degrees of mobility? 

JC: One key challenge is ensuring that designers understand the importance of whole-of-life design; that there is integrated longevity to residential and public space design. Mobility can be seen as a type of physical agency, and allowing people to be independent for as long as possible is vitally important in them retaining control of their lives. 

U: How important is adaptability and flexibility in ensuring housing is able to meet the changing needs of its occupants and ageing with them? 

JC: We believe this is vitally important, particularly as it is our assertion that housing should support not just the individual but the immediate family unit too; which will often be in flux and require changing spatial arrangements, especially where children are involved.

What role can technology play in designing for the future of housing? We think that over the next few decades there will be a range of technologies that become mainstream in society that will disrupt the way we live. For example driver-less cars may mean commuting is less onerous which in turn opens up new real estate options further from the city centre.

It also may see a shift towards virtual meetings and workplace interactions (in the metaverse!), in turn further disrupting traditional real estate patterns. We also see automation and ai systems potentially adding further disruption to the spatial relations of cities, as certain labour markets dry up in industrial areas for example and new ones open elsewhere.

The refinement of renewable energy sources may see living off-grid from traditional services infrastructure a more realistic option, and allow for people to not only be technologically connected in remote environments but also largely self sufficient in food and consumables production.

U: What do you expect to take away from the research/exhibition and how will this ultimately inform your own work? 

JC: We have some high-level home ownership typologies that we are testing through the exhibition, so we are looking to use the research to assess how successful these may actually be in reality; and how prepared people may be to re-assess the typical Australian Dream of the single family on the quarter acre.

We are very excited to forge relationships with experts and professionals in a range of complimentary fields, gain their insights, and work these into the typologies also.

Over the month long show we are also looking to work with family groups (perhaps related to each other; perhaps 'logical families') to obtain fantasy briefs that will help inform these typologies further; as well as furnish us with the appropriate skills for moderating, expanding upon and delivering the needs and desires of diverse households.

As a relatively large designer group, we can see the benefits in this kind of living and come to the project with an innate understanding of the workings of a group.


  • Tuesday to Friday: 10am - 5pm
  • Saturday:12 - 5pm
  • Closed Sunday and Monday
  • Closed Public Holidays
  • Admission is free
  • The program can be found here.


RMIT Design Hub Project Rooms 1 + 2  Level 2, Building 100, RMIT University
Corner Victoria and Swanston Streets Carlton, 3053

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir is one of the co-founders of Urban Melbourne. Laurence has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in both the private and public sector specialising in architecture, urban design and planning. He also has a keen interest in the built environment, cities and Star Wars.

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