I've been admiring the architectural and interior design work of Melbourne based practice Techne for some time, having featured one of their residential projects on the blog earlier this year. I'm sure like me, the stunning home restoration in South Yarra left you wanting to see more, so I'm happy to report that they have since launched a new website, showcasing an impressive portfolio across commercial, hospitality, and residential. Two of their projects, Fonda Mexican and Tonka were recently recognised in the 2013 Eat-Drink-Design Awards, and many of the bars and restaurants they have worked on are fast becoming Melbourne institutions.
Today I'm excited to share more of their work, alongside an interview with the firm's directors, Nicholas Travers and Justin Northrop, who lead a team of 16 people, including architects, drafts people and interior designers.
Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds and the path that led you to architecture and setting up your own firm in 2002?
Nick: My pathway to architecture started from a fairly young age at school where I always had a strong interest in drawing, art and graphics and the decision to consider a career in the field of design was a natural one. Initially, I was more drawn to industrial design, but upon completing year 12 I was accepted into Architecture at Adelaide University in 1992. My focus on the field of Architecture was established in that first year at university and my dedication to the profession has continued to this day.
Justin: Growing up I developed an interest in architecture and construction from growing up amidst home renovations and following my father, a structural engineer, around building sites. It is possible that after telling enough people that I wanted to be an architect when I grew up that I started to believe it. In any case my interest did not wane and I was fortunate to be accepted into Architecture at The University of Melbourne and go on exchange to UC Berkeley before starting my career in Melbourne.
Essentially we met while working together at Peddle Thorp Architects in the design department as new graduates in the late 90’s-early 2000’s. This evolved into a partnership working together on some small hospitality projects on the weekend. Eventually we had the opportunity to design and operate our own bar and restaurant in the CBD called The Deanery. This project was the catalyst for starting Techne Architects. In the early days of the business we occupied office space with Six Degrees Architects in West Melbourne, before creating our own studio in Hardware Lane. We have been here since 2004.
Nick Travers and Justin Northrop
You've recently launched a new website that showcases an impressive portfolio of work. What have been some standout projects for you, and why?
The standout projects have been key hospitality projects like the pubs we have produced for Sand Hill Road (The Bridge Hotel, The Prahran Hotel and The Richmond Club Hotel). These have been design driven projects with engaging design outcomes. There have also been some nice single residence projects like the Fitzroy House where the collaboration with the client and project team enabled a fully integrated design encompassing the interiors, the building envelope and the landscaped spaces. Projects in the automotive sector have also been rewarding in creating specialist retail and servicing environments in the form of large dealerships for prestigious brands like Porsche.
How would you describe the Techne design aesthetic? Would you say it's a mix of your own personal styles, as reflected in your own homes?
Techne highly values the power of collaboration and by working with different craftspeople and artists on projects we achieve surprising and varied results. Beyond this, our work has a modernist basis with an inherent warmth and tactility through the use of natural and recycled materials (we appreciate the patina, agedness and sense of history that these materials give to a project). We like using steel and clearly expressing the construction of a building (tectonics). Grounded-ness of the design (physically and philosophically) is a sensibility of our design but we also like to bring a playful approach which isn't too serious. We are always happy to make use of bold colour and use relevant decorations and furnishings to bring personality to a design/space.
Ultimately the design must be relevant to the place, culture, craft, climate and use.
You work across many areas, both residential and commercial. Do you each specialise in a particular one? Which are you most passionate about and why?
We enjoy working collaboratively on all the projects in the office, with a fairly equal level of experience and expertise across the various project types. We do however have particular fields of interests, and in general terms Justin has a special affinity for our hospitality based work while I have a focus on our automotive and other commercial based projects. Beyond this, we are inherently passionate about working on projects where the client is invested in the idea of producing something special, whether it be a house, an apartment building, a shop or a café. There is delight to be had in all project types and scales.
Where do you draw inspiration from... other designers, international magazines and websites, travel etc?
Inspiration comes from a broad base of interest, but the greatest and most vivid inspiration comes directly from our clients themselves, the project briefs that they provide and the sites/spaces that the specific project is occupying. These project specific influences always set us on a certain pathway and a field of research and discovery well beyond the work of other architects/designers and their published works. The great work of other architects is less about inspiring our projects specifically and more about driving ourselves to achieve equally noteworthy architecture and design. Young and passionate designers are also a great source of inspiration and a collaborative approach within our team allows for stronger design responses.
Can you explain the importance of sustainability for your firm, and how it plays a part in each of your projects?
Sustainability is embedded within our practice. We have an integrated design approach which layers traditional passive design techniques with environmental, social and economic aspects to create beautiful, healthy and low energy spaces. This results in designs that work, without relying on the addition of expensive building technologies.
What are you working on right now?
We are working on numerous projects with a couple of notable ones being The Terminus Hotel in Abbottsford (nearing completion of documentation) and we have recently been commissioned to design a series of exciting new residences at the Amcor Papermill site in Alphington.
Wow, that was hugely inspiring! Thanks so much to Nick and Justin for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer these questions. To find out more about the amazing projects above, and to see other examples of their work, take a look here. For further inspiration and a look behind the scenes, follow Techne on Facebook and Instagram.