Technē's Steve McKeag discusses his appointment as Director (and his favourite pubs)

Technē's Steve McKeag discusses his appointment as Director (and his favourite pubs)
Laurence DragomirFebruary 26, 2018

Technē Architecture and Interior Design's move into larger premises on Rathdowne Street in Carlton has also coincided with the appointment of a new director to assist managing the office's growth. Steve McKeag joins founders Justin Northrop and Nick Travers, as the third director at the tightly knit studio, whose name and philosophy means ‘to make, poetically’.

McKeag’s promotion from senior associate reflects strong growth at Technē, which has recently Garden State Hotel, Rooftop Bar and Cinema, and Brunetti Flinders Lane. The practice has also been recently announced as the architect for The Esplanade Hotel, St.Kilda; Tribe Hotels in Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne; and several projects at Glenvill’s YarraBend development in Alphington.

Technē's Steve McKeag discusses his appointment as Director (and his favourite pubs)
Garden State Hotel opened in late 2016. Image: Technē

McKeag has demonstrated his ability across a range of project sectors, from hospitality to commercial developments. A registered architect, he has almost 20 years’ experience, including three years working in the UK for Richard Rogers Partnership (now known as Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners) and Reid Architects. For Technē, asked Steve to provide a bit of background on his appointment, in addition to some of the joys of working in the hospitality sector within Technē - he has previously worked as lead architect on major projects including Richmond Club Hotel and the Prahran Hotel. Your appointment to director has also coincided with Technē's recent move into a new office space on Rathdowne Street in Carlton North. Were both moves as a result of the office's growth? And what are the office's plans for the future in terms of expansion in both staff numbers and other sectors?

Steve McKeag: Yes absolutely. We’ve had the good fortune of an amazing amount of growth since I started at Technē – evolving from 12 people in the Hardware Lane office to 35 in a very short amount of time.

As you can imagine, the amount of desk space has almost halved in that period so the move to Rathdowne Street heralds the chance for us to spread our wings in more ways than one.

The new office signifies a new era for Technē Architecture and Interior Design, acting as a line in the sand that we’re looking at as a catalyst for change as we look towards future growth.

UM: Part of your role involves bringing in new projects to the office - are there particular projects you're targeting or areas you would like to further develop experience in?

SM: I do pride myself on my ability to grow and maintain client relationships. Bringing in new clients, as well as servicing and assisting existing clients is a highlight of my role.

In terms of particular projects, I think that hotels are a natural progression from hospitality projects, plus I would like to continue to build upon our growing portfolio of workplace design work.

UM:  In an interview with Nick previously cited the office's pub work as some of his most enjoyable projects in particular the fact that unlike other projects the pubs can be enjoyed by the design team socially and they present a unique opportunity to see first hand how people are making use of the spaces they have designed. What are your most enjoyable projects within the office?

SM: The Espy has been an incredibly exciting project to work on. The location combined with its status as a Melbourne icon has made it particularly rewarding and we’re all thrilled to be involved with its reinvigoration.

I have great memories of visiting the venue in my 20’s so returning the Espy to its former glory in order for a new generation to create fresh memories continues to be an honour.

Technē's Steve McKeag discusses his appointment as Director (and his favourite pubs)
Steve McKeag was recently appointed as director at Technē. Image: Supplied

UM: On the topic of pubs do you have a favourite pub? (Doesn't have to necessarily be a new or Technē designed pub?

SM: I think we’re really spoilt for choice in Melbourne for pubs as pub culture is a big part of our city, so it’s very hard to decide. In the city it would have to be a tie between The Gem and Fox Hotel in Collingwood because both are old school favourites. The Gem has a really cool and authentic Americana aesthetic, and the Fox Hotel has a welcoming, quintessentially Melbourne vibe. Both always seems to strike the right tone for a good night.

When I have the chance to get out of the city I can’t go past visiting the Dinner Plain Hotel. Summer or winter, it’s definitely the mountains best pub and you can’t go past the views. Keeping with the alpine theme, the Cardrona Hotel in New Zealand after a day on the slopes is spectacular.

Rumoured to be the most photographed building in the country, the combination of its incredible beer garden and sense of history make it a go-to destination.

UM: Justin previously talked about how the Directors are able to delegate to senior team members, allowing them to take the lead on projects, entrusting them with a level of responsibility to represent the office in meetings. Did you find this approach assisted your development and progression to Director?

SM: Nick and Justin give a lot of autonomy and this creates a supportive and nurturing workplace. Together, they’ve fostered an environment in which team members are able to share experiences and learn from one another.

By asking questions as simple as ‘how would you approach that?’, the leadership team is able to encourage an open dialogue between employees at all levels and create a space where resources and knowledge can be easily shared. Contributing to this open forum type discussions has definitely helped my development and progression to director.

UM: How important do you believe mentoring is within architectural practice and how does Technē foster and nurture talent to give staff the confidence to tackle projects of any size and budget?

SM: Mentoring is critical within any architectural practice. The creative side of architecture can be very time exorbitant, so communicating with staff in a way that gets them to lift their heads up and identify the critical task at hand is very important.

At Techne, team leaders will often ask younger staff to identify goals and key tasks early on, so that the confidence to takes projects of any size and budget can be built upon early on.

UM: Lastly, UM asked both Nick and Justin this so I'll ask you as well - is there a project either here in Melbourne or globally that you'd like to work on? What would your dream project be?

SM: My dream project would definitely my own house. If the sky’s the limit then extend the fantasy to include a coastal location and a limitless budget. That would be perfect!

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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