Spotlight on Warren and Mahoney with Nick Deans

Spotlight on Warren and Mahoney with Nick Deans
Spotlight on Warren and Mahoney with Nick Deans

Today Urban.com.au turns the spotlight on Warren and Mahoney, an international architectural design practice based in Australia and New Zealand. With a 65-year history and a 300-strong team of outstanding talent, they’ve been recognised with more than 300 awards for work ranging from commercial developments to landmark public buildings.

The design-led practice offers core services including architecture, interior design and workplace design. The office has deep expertise in strategy and briefing, customer experience design, urban design, master planning and sustainable design

Warren and Mahoney strongly believes that identity matters: that projects designed to reflect their users’ shared identity are more meaningful and more enduring, both aesthetically and commercially. They have a deep awareness of cultural context that applies to their work, including indigenous, diversity and environmental considerations.

As a recognised leader in environmentally sustainable design, Warren and Mahoney places emphasis on sustainability as key to architectural excellence, and on finding practical ways to lessen environmental impacts.

Urban.com.au recently sought to gain further insight into the architectural practice's design process, methodology, portfolio of work and aspirations for the future, summarised in the below Q&A with Warren and Mahoney Principal Nick Deans. Keep an eye out for Urban.com.au's follow up interview with Principals Nick Deans and Richard Weinman on an upcoming episode of the podcast.

Spotlight on Warren and Mahoney with Nick Deans
Interiors of Stanley Street apartments in Collingwood. Image: Warren and Mahoney

Urban.com.au: How large is the practice and how many staff are based in the Melbourne office?

Nick Deans: We are a practice of 300 staff across 7 studios in Australasia, and we currently employ 50 people across our two Australian studios. Our business model operates as one studio, as such we are able to draw on expertise across the studio network, and we are able to scale up/down very quickly in-house to meet client requirements.

UM: What projects is the studio currently working on locally in Melbourne?

ND: Our Melbourne practice is currently engaged in:

  • La Trobe University Sports Park
  • Deakin University Central Plaza Project
  • 6 x mid-rise residential projects for Gurner, including The Spanish Club.
  • We completed two projects for Gurner in 2017, including Stanley Street Apartments in Collingwood, and Regent Residences in Richmond.

UM: One of the more notable projects that has been in the press recently is the former Spanish Club being developed into apartments by Tim Gurner. Can you speak a bit about this project and some of the challenges involved in working in a historically sensitive context such as Fitzroy on the site of a well-known Melbourne institution?

ND: Melbourne is a melting pot of cultural diversity and we are very proud to play a part in the continuation of ‘The Spanish Club’ which is an iconic institution on Johnston Street, representing the heart of the Hispanic Festival since its inception.

We have been working with Gurner on the Spanish Club project for the past three years from early feasibility through to the receipt of Town Planning Permit. The project consists of a seven-storey building that includes 40 apartments, and a ground floor tenancy that will become the new home to ‘The Spanish Club’.  Two levels of basement carparking are accessed via a rear lane.

The proposal fully refurbishes the original façade to pay homage to both the heritage of the site and of the Johnston Street precinct.  The massing of the apartment building is set back from the street to visually soften the interface between the old and new.  The design draws on the mass and gravitas of the original façade and reinterprets the scale and portion to create an elegant interplay between both elements.

The upper floors to the building are recessed above the main parapet and feature large terraces over Johnston Street.

We are very excited to be working directly with ‘The Spanish Club’ to create a new club and function space on the Ground Floor of the development. It is great that the iconic institution will be able to continue to operate and will have a future for years to come.

The inherent challenge an infill site is the management of the bulk and massing in the context of the streetscape. Our site sits in an immediate context of largely developed properties, as such we are creating a precedent of development for the streetscape. 

We envisage that in the future it is highly likely that the entire length of Johnston Street will be home to 7-10 storey buildings. We have the responsibility to be good neighbours.  As part of our initial investigation on the site we examined the likely pattern of development from Nicholson to Brunswick Street.  This has informed our setbacks to ensure complementary relationships will exist with a view to the future. Outlook, daylight, and ventilation are fundamentals of inner city living.

The prospect of our city fringe suburbs, Fitzroy, Collingwood, etc, becoming Parisian scale is a future we face to house a growing population. The population is already demanding access to amenity and social infrastructure, ‘The Spanish Club’ is a step toward this ideal.

Spotlight on Warren and Mahoney with Nick Deans
Warren and Mahoney's design for The Spanish Club Image: GURNER

UM: What are some of the critical thinking and processes behind the studio's projects? What would people identify a Warren Mahoney project with?

ND: Our design vision is built on the understanding that the most authentic, successful and enduring projects are those that reflect the shared identity of their users. Our work strives to capture social and cultural identity in ways that resonate with communities and enhance a sense of belonging.

Our design capability is supported by sophisticated processes and technology that allow us to deliver projects of all scales and complexities. Integral to our work are best-practice documentation and quality management systems, a world-class rendering and visualisation division and an advanced Building Information Modelling (BIM) team.

UM: What are the aspirations for Warren and Mahoney in terms of growth and project sectors and typologies? Is there a desire to work on projects of a certain scale?

ND: Warren and Mahoney has been on a strong upward growth path for the previous 5 years, growing on average 20% per annum. Our business aspires to continue that growth and aims to further expand our studios in Sydney and Melbourne.

However, we’re not pursuing growth for growth’s sake. We believe we have a unique and valuable story and we’re excited to take that story into new cities, and to work with new clients. Hand in hand with our clients, we’ll explore the frontiers of sustainable, people-centred design and in doing so, both reflect and strengthen the communities we serve.

UM: Is there a particular project either here or anywhere in the world past, present or yet to be conceived that you wish the studio worked on or would like to work on?

ND: As a studio we look to projects that display an ethos that lies at the nexus of people and the culture of place.  We believe that identity matters so projects in the vein of The High Line in New York inspire us.

The High Line has not only established a successful activated public realm, it has also provided the framework for a progressive architectural and arts programs along its perimeter.  The project epitomises the strong interest of Warren and Mahoney in the creation of space that is embedded in the culture of the city that it exists in.

Laurence Dragomir

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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Architecture Warren and Mahoney Architects Melbourne The Spanish Club Q&A

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