With our Burleigh studio celebrating its one year anniversary, we had a chat with Associate and long-time Gold Coast local, Nic Allen, about some of the highlights over the past year, his thoughts on how the region is changing, Conrad Gargett’s connection with Bond University and the dynamic studio culture.
Congratulations on turning one! What have been some of the biggest highlights since establishing the Gold Coast studio?
There are many highlights! Being involved in establishing the new studio has been very rewarding. It’s been exciting to work out how a small studio would fit within a larger practice and take on work within a city that is experiencing a lot of growth and change.
The practice has been fortunate to have two local projects here on the Gold Coast, De-Luxe and Aalto, and another multi-residential project in Tweed Heads and we see the Burleigh studio as being a great base for pursuing more opportunities within these regions.
De-Luxe, specifically, has given the practice a good opportunity to show that we’re really passionate about maintaining and strengthening legacy and connecting to place. We have adopted a similar lens with Aalto – connecting back to the history of the site through the way it was planned and taking cues from nature to drive the design.
How have you seen the Gold Coast evolve over recent years?
The pandemic seemed to have a big impact on the region, with a lot of people relocating from the larger cities.
During lockdowns, many people were forced to work from home and as a result, began reevaluating the way they wanted to live their lives.
The Gold Coast offers so many great lifestyle benefits and now with the flexibility for many people to work remotely, new opportunities have opened up for sea-changers.
As a result, we’re seeing more neighborhood hubs popping up – smaller mixed-use developments with boutique retail, hospitality and commercial offerings that have a very local feel.
The bar has also been raised in terms of design and what people are expecting and looking for when it comes to the way that they live, shop, dine and interact with buildings and public spaces.
There’s a real emphasis on quality design, a ‘less is more’ approach, and connecting to nature and place. Developers seem to be embracing these qualities as well and realising the value of sharing the stories behind designs. They all want a point of difference and quality architecture is essentially what is selling buildings.
It’s really exciting to be part of shaping that change.
Conrad Gargett has had a longstanding association with Bond University – how has this relationship strengthened since the establishment of the Burleigh studio?
The practice had been welcoming Bond University students for placements within the Brisbane studio for quite some time and a number of our Gold Coast staff are former Bond students, so there was an existing connection. Once we established the studio here, we wanted to make it a more formal process and started offering placements locally. The program has been a great success and from the two placements last year, we have hired both Rob and Hannah, who have become valuable members of the team.
We have also begun sponsoring a design award each semester that recognises some of our practice’s core values which align directly with Bond’s core values – specifically in relation to design excellence, placemaking, designing for Country and design technology and innovation. These awards have been a great way to engage with and support local talent.
Conrad Gargett is also very supportive of Bond’s ambitions to embed First Nation Knowledge in Design into its curriculum and are sponsoring and presenting at its upcoming symposium in May.
What is the studio culture like being a small team within a large practice?
We have a very open dialogue within the studio. Most Mondays we’ll meet and have a recap of the previous week and discuss what is coming up which gives everyone a chance to check in on one another. There is a sense of shared responsibility amongst us – we’re a young studio that is part of a much bigger practice which has challenged us all to step up and perform at a high level.
We try and make the most of the studio location, being minutes from the beach and get out for a walk most days or a surf before work. And on Fridays, after wrapping up work for the week, a burger and beer at Ze Pickle downstairs is often on the cards!