INTERVIEW // TENNIS AUSTRALIA
Interview with Courtney Dunn, Tennis Australia
Who / what is Tennis Australia, and what is your role / roles within the organisation?
Tennis Australia is the governing body of the sport of tennis in Australia, responsible for everything from grassroots development and participation right through to international events like the Australian Open. My team manages the delivery of the Australian Open hospitality facilities – everything from bars, to restaurants and premium invite only spaces. As Manager Hospitality Operations I project manage the design, build and operations of around 25 spaces onsite in collaboration with our amazing suppliers, creating world class guest experiences for thousands of people each year.
Which three words best describes you / or the events team?
All the “C”s!
Can you give us insight into the range of projects you and your team are involved with throughout the year?
Our primary focus is in on delivering the hospitality facilities for the Australian Open, many people think it’s a two week gig but in reality takes all year to plan! Each year we continue to innovate our offering and event as a whole, so this one project takes up most of our time. We also assist in the development of some of the year round events and launches and play a small part in things like the Fed and Davis Cup home times.
We know your team are instrumental in the planning and execution of the Australian Open. Can you tell us, how you go about approaching this major hallmark event?
Spreadsheets!!! Oh so many spreadsheets…Ultimately our success comes down to a couple of things – robust planning and creating a core team of amazingly creative and dedicated people to support the delivery of what you are trying to achieve. I’ve spent years developing strong relationships with people in the industry, who are solution focused and excited about pushing the boundaries. I now have at my disposal some of Australia’s most creative minds, who aren’t afraid of hard work or the crazy ideas we sometimes throw at them.
We start planning virtually from the minute we close the last of our shipping containers during bump out. We take time to review our offering and project delivery, and constantly reference back to our core principles and objectives during each project stage. This keeps us focused and consistent throughout the year. An event of this scope has to be approached holistically. I’ve worked on this project for many years now, which provides me with a clear focus of the end goal and how to get there, I know when to take risks and how to get the best outcomes from the team around me.
Do you have a philosophy that you instil in your work?
This is going to sound really corny, but years ago in my very first full-time job I had to watch a video in the staff room of this zany American guy who delivered a series of seminars on customer service. Instilled in me was the concept that for every customer it’s opening night, which has stuck with me for close on twenty years now. In every capacity, people come to you expecting the best and I take the concept of “opening night” very seriously. I want every guest to have the same experience whether it’s day one or day fourteen of tournament. Everything should be exactly as it was on day one when we first open doors, right down to the smallest detail (just ask anyone how deranged I get about chair placement!)
Additionally, I try to bring everyone along on the journey and foster a team spirit. It doesn’t matter if you work directly for me, are engaged by me, or are a stakeholder in our projects – as far as I’m concerned you work in my team and we have a collective purpose and vision regardless of our differing priorities or involvement.
Which other designers, artists or creative people inspire you at the moment?
Where to begin! If I had more time I’d probably spend all day scrolling Instagram drooling over the talented people I follow. I’m inspired by all sorts of things, colour and texture are huge for me, I’m obsessed with the interplay of colours and the layering of unexpected textures. I’m a silversmith by trade so sculpture of all forms inspires me, especially that which has an architectural or structural element.
In terms of people, I look globally for inspiration but focus more locally on artists and designers. Personally, I can’t get enough of the styles and work of people like Mim Design Studio, Simone Haag, Claire Cousins, Flack Studios, Arent & Pyke, Marsha Golemac…there’s too many to name.
I take a lot of inspiration from international hotels and restaurants, chefs, jewellers and Wes Anderson films!
For work, I’m surrounded by creative people who inspire me daily not only with their creations but their work ethic and approach – Flipside Creative, Red Exhibitions, Nathan Burkett, Armelle Habib, Wona and Charlie from Looseleaf, and Dann’s of course!
But without doubt, my collaboration and friendship with Gary Chard from Chard International is pivotal to my work. We have partnered together for many years now, and Gary has changed my whole view on what makes good design and really encouraged me to take risks. His creative energy, vision and work output is second to none and I love not only when our ideas align during the concept stage, but also when we challenge each other on the direction of a space.
I’d love to work in a more permanent setting creating restaurants and hotels with a more sustainable focus, we all know how wasteful the event industry can be no matter how hard we try. Small housing is a strong interest of mine as well, and something I’d love to explore. And if the NGV is listening, I’m happy to come and build exhibitions for you too! They create such amazing spaces, bringing to life a large scale exhibition would be a dream, their recent Dior exhibition blew me away.
I’d also absolutely love to name paints. That would be such a fun job, how do I apply for that?
What are your favourite trends of the moment? Or what can’t you get enough of right now?
I try very hard not to get caught up in trends, because I believe once something is a trend it is too mainstream and not necessarily something we want to incorporate into our designs. In saying that, I have an underlying obsession with rattan at the moment so I’m trying very hard not to rip my kitchen out and rebuild the whole thing with woven finishes, aware that I’ll only love it for a passing moment.
I’m planning a renovation so am focused on all things ruggedly coastal with a little Palm Springs vibe thrown in, and spend an inordinate amount of time snap-shotting ideas that in reality are a touch extravagant for my 8o’s suburban home!
What do you do to get away from it all?
Indulge in my love of travel and exploring big cities the world over. Sadly the trips aren’t as frequent since having our little girl, but it’s my ultimate way to get away from reality.
Name your favourite Melbourne hangout and why.
We’ve just moved down to the Mornington Peninsula so after years of city living our hangouts are changing a little!
I’m trying to explore as many places as possible, and very much looking forward to a drink with my sister-in-law this weekend at Winey Cow.
Which Dann Event Hire piece is your favourite?
Oh boy this was harder than I thought. Can I choose three?
1. The Lotus chair as I had a small hand in bringing that to life
2. The Luna banquettes – they are simply stunning and so versatile
3. I have a beautiful leather Ryder chair in my house so I must include that too, it occupied a corner of my little girl’s room for many months and I’ve spent countless hours in the middle of the night sitting in it, so it holds many special memories
If you were a piece of furniture which would you be? Why?
Definitely a statement armchair, something a little fun and colourful but also practical!