There are many different kinds of learning, and at Hames Sharley we like to expose newly graduated employees to as many of them as possible. How else can we ensure the next generation of architects has the talent needed to enable the communities of the future to flourish?
So, when the opportunity arose for some of our Queensland staff members to spectate at a Hames Sharley hosted panel event as part of Open House Brisbane this year, we ensured one of our newest recruits, Bridie O’Toole, was there to soak up the words of wisdom – and to report on the event for this blog!
A communications specialist, a developer, a retail expert, a connoisseur of residential and urban planning, and an architectural jack of all trades walk into an office.
No, this is not the beginning of a joke; it’s the set-up for After Dark – Urban Hubs: Places to Work, Rest and Play. One of the many talks that mark the beginning of Brisbane Open House 2018. Along with the aforementioned speakers, a diverse crowd assembles at the Heritage-listed office in the Rowe’s Arcade Building – the Queensland headquarters of Hames Sharley – to listen in on a night of discussion about urban hubs and planning. Specifically, it covers the hard work that went in to the recently unveiled Albion Exchange project, from the point of view of the project team itself.
Among this crowd sits me, Hames Sharley’s newsletter scribe for the month. My attendance serving to cover the talk for the Hames Sharley website. As an Architecture Graduate and a millennial who strives for new experiences, I’m transitioning from a construction and contract admin role in the Health Department to master planning in the Retail Department at Hames Sharley Queensland. As such, sessions like these are an excellent way to see how it’s done; an excellent way to see how the experts work.
MC for the night is communications specialist Jane Edwards, who begins with a question. One of many that will challenge the guest speakers and get their minds ticking over.
“Brisbane’s future growth is sure to bring enormous opportunities; it calls for a new strategy to address social and physical infrastructure and resources which are currently unequipped for the rate of growth and development. How do you see this affecting the way we develop and design communities?”
Developer Tim Rossberg fields the question, voicing his belief that this process of understanding is hindered by poor reporting in the media.
“Media focus [today] is about population growth per suburb. What they don’t consider are transport needs, sport and recreation, and infrastructure. Urban hubs in Brisbane need to be more focused on the networks. The need for public transport improvements.”
That’s where the Albion Exchange project comes into play. A transport-orientated development (TOD) situated in and around the Albion train station, it strives to refocus media understanding of urban hubs and developments by bringing together retail, food and beverage, recreation, commercial and residential facilities.
As the questions continue, it becomes apparent that urban planning has evolved over the years in response to changes in user need.
Architectural jack-of-all-trades Jason Preston cites a stronger appetite for experience as the driver for this change, while residential and urban planning guru Chris Maher believes it comes down to the millennial need to be a part of a place – a need for connectivity in a physical way rather than just by virtual means.
Retail expert David McCarroll supports this sentiment. “Retail traditions [in particular] are changing to be tilted towards experience,” he says, adding that this change is the result of the need to compete with online outlets. “You can’t buy a haircut online,” he says. “You can’t buy a cup of coffee online. You [simply] can’t experience online.” But you can experience what’s right in front of you. Physical experiences that can be catered to by developments such as the Albion Exchange.
As the discussion continues, it is asked how architectural form and typology might change with the evolving idea of urban hubs and development, touching on the notion of transient structures.
“How do we address sustainability concerns?” Jane asks the panel. “How do we mitigate the risk of a design-and-development program that may be forced to change rapidly to accommodate changing demands, which may even occur before the completion of the development? How do we build in future flexibility to ensure that they can stay healthy and vital into the future?”
In response, Jason focuses on transient structures and the need to deal with changing demands and future flexibility. His argument is that architecture needs to be and develop into a “canvas for experience. [Architecture must] have adaptable and changeable space. A canvas for space.”
Chris, meanwhile, tackles the question with a view to trends in the housing market and the millennials attitude towards buying a house and settling down. “Younger people are not interested in getting into the property market,” he says, “but are interested in connectivity.” More specifically, connectivity without commitment.
Next came a question came from the audience, about the slow rate of change in government and what can be done as a provision for the city of Brisbane as a whole.
The panel agreed that professionals in the built environment sector need to appeal to a broad spectrum. “We need to consider where we’re at demographically, and where we’re going,” says Chris. “Creating spaces where older people engage with young people, as this is beneficial for all.”
Tim supported this idea, suggesting that professionals “[curate] the green space for all sectors and demographics.” Or, as Jason eloquently puts it, “There needs to be less compartmentalisation of needs and more integration.” This is the key to future-proofing urban spaces and design, and to working with a government that, at times, is “unwilling-to-change”.
As the evening went on, the panel took their audience through the way in which ‘places’ are designed – who is responsible for connectivity, and the responsibilities of the professional in implementing and advocating change in urban hubs and planning.
Chris ended with the narrative of urban design as it evolves: first comes the lifestyle, then spaces and then the buildings. As professionals, we need to think about the edges of spaces and the economics of it, “working the design so it will nurture change and future-proofing.”
Tim, however, ended on a more pragmatic note. Professionals, whether that be the designers, architects, planners or developers, need to build and design a masterplan within a certain timeframe otherwise it won’t be economically viable. It just won’t work.
As Bridie found, attending events such as these are priceless opportunities to learn outside of the workplace. These meetings allow industry leaders not only to share their thoughts on their specialist fields but also the ways in which they fit into the architecture and design overall – and for those just starting out on their careers, these glimpses of the bigger picture can influence them for years to come.
Exposing the freshness of the next generation to the experience of the experts is one of the best ways to ensure that the future of design is a bright one. Hames Sharley is proud to support events like Open House Brisbane and guarantee the next wave of creatives develops with the best outlook possible.