Form Meets Function, Be It Broadcasting or Retail

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-By John Boley

You get the feeling straight away when you call the office that Peter Harvey & Company is an unusually sophisticated operation. While you wait for the call to be put through to the eponymous Managing Director and owner, the background music is not Kylie Minogue, it’s Gregorian chant. Classy.

Peter Harvey & Co is a company that primarily specialises in two areas of architecture, interior design and project management – broadcasting and retailing (supermarkets and shopping centres) – although it has worked in many other areas of architecture including commercial projects, corporate relocations, offices and residential. Peter Harvey himself has been in practice for over 30 years, having commenced practice in Victoria in 1978. He has been Managing Director for more than 25 years, in which time he has designed and developed many major projects. He still maintains a hands-on approach to designing and managing the practice.

Nearly six years ago the company set up a subsidiary named Supermarket Design Australia (SDA), separating out this function “for ease of identification within the Retail Supermarket Sector, as a marketing exercise,” as Peter describes it. He still heads up this division, which has a team of around a dozen people working on projects mainly for the IGA and other independent retail chains.

Both companies offer a design focus with superior documentation and technology, using building information management software, 3D visualisations and “walkthroughs” to assist clients in their understanding of a developing design. “We also offer a project management service which is basically a one-stop shop from start to finish. From a project’s inception a client may come to us, whether it be a commercial project or a supermarket project, and we can assist in the process of site location, site selection & feasibility analysis.” The company will also work through the processes of concept plans and budgeting in conjunction with quantity surveyors, planning and construction drawings, tenders and then the project management – assistance with and attendance throughout the construction phase to ultimate handover.

In recent years, Peter concedes, architects have moved away from project management to a considerable extent but he prefers to offer “the full service,” because “if we do our documentation and then hand the project over to someone else to build it, we seem quite often to lack the refinement that we might get when we are in control of the whole project. That’s why we like to be in control of the construction side.” Project management, he says, is a mixture of old-style contract administration and also making sure you are the overall point of contact during a project. “So I would say using the architect as the project manager involves rather more than the traditional architectural function to deliver the completed project to meet the client’s needs.”

The nature of the projects that Peter Harvey usually works on demands that the clients are typically very closely involved. “Take a radio station, for instance – a client is educated in what is required and knows exactly what the end result needs to be; our role is to skilfully interpret this to produce the desired outcome, on time and budget.”

As architects to the broadcast industry, Peter Harvey & Co have developed something of a specialty; marrying architecture, interior design, and project management. This translates into projects including TV and radio stations, broadcast facilities and corporate relocations. The company has completed more than 40 radio and TV stations around Australia and South East Asia with over 300 digital studio and technical complexes. There is specific expertise in the field of specialised architectural design and coordination of acoustic facilities by integrating all aspects of the design and construction of a broadcast and production facility. Specialist services include broadcast, acoustic and interior architecture, design of acoustically controlled “˜on air’, recording and production studios, design of specialised air-conditioning (an important but sometimes overlooked area – broadcasters do not like dripping with sweat over the mike because the aircon makes a background noise!), design of electronic equipment control rooms, cable management and administration master planning. In addition, by coordinating the complex relationship of all ancillary departments such as engineering, sales, administration, accounts and office management, the company can effectively plan all ancillary spaces, providing maximum functionality and serviceable integration between these spaces.

The impressive broadcast client list includes the Asia Broadcast Centre Malaysia (Measat Radio Corporation for Astro, the first satellite digital broadcasting facility in Malaysia and the most technically advanced station which has close to 40 radio stations operating out of one large complex), ATV Channel 10 (TV station relocation and multiple tenancy and corporate fit-outs, Austereo Ltd (national corporate offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane), DMG Radio Australia (multiple radio stations, hubs and technical facilities including Nova and Vega), NAT Seven Radio &Television in Kuala Lumpur, NBC (New Guinea Broadcasting Commission), Today and Triple M radio networks (2Day&Triple M in Sydney, Fox and Triple M in Melbourne, SAFM and Triple M in Adelaide and B105 and Triple M in Perth, Newcastle and Canberra.

The bank of knowledge built up in these and similar projects is invaluable, especially when – as with many of the jobs listed above – the project demands that a facility be extended or changed without interruption to the existing broadcasting schedules. Peter points out, for example, that in the changeover from analog to digital broadcasting, “the digital facilities require a lot more physical engineering space than the old analog versions, and so we usually have to build extensions to a building.

“We are currently working on a project in Malaysia for Radio TV Malaysia where we are doubling the size of their existing facility on about 100 hectares of land in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. This project is utilising all PH&C’s experience in Broadcasting and Facility Design; it includes TV Studios, Radio Broadcast and Production Studios, a Music Centre and Auditorium.”

In conjunction with FDC Construction and Fitout, Peter Harvey & Company won the Master Builders Association’s 2009 award for Excellence in Shop and Office Fit Out for the Austereo Melbourne Studios in South Melbourne. The fitout was designed to meet the specific needs for a modern digital broadcast facility. The suites of studios were designed for the Fox FM and Triple M radio stations along with production studios for Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) studio and facilities. A variety of floor and wall construction materials were used to acoustically isolate the studios including 25mm thick glass that allows the spaces to be visually linked to the exterior and adjoining office areas and yet achieve the required acoustic isolation.

Media consolidation has meant the company works on a dwindling number of individual clients so “there is a limitation on the number of projects that are available. However, each major station group in each major city does require refurbishment with new technologies and also updating of the accommodation every, say, five to seven years. That’s enough to keep us busy.”

Much of the company’s business at present – and Peter mentions that it is “in a mild expansion mode” – is retail oriented. This includes a number of small urban shopping centres as well as the supermarket business. “We have also recently been commissioned by Tasti D-lite to develop a chain of low fat ice-cream stores throughout Australia, and that has a particular design theme. It’s an American chain but we are ‘Australian-ising’ it at the moment to meet the Australian Market.”

There is more variety in the supermarket business than might be supposed by a consumer who thinks they are all planned identically. Don’t forget, says Peter, that IGA stands for Independent Grocers’ Association, “and each retailer is exactly that – independent. There is the IGA brand, but each retailer likes to offer their own different services to their own ‘flavour’ and design.” SDA caters for this individual approach with layouts, materials, colours, floor finishes, ceilings and especially lighting and signage. “The flow is very important in a supermarket to make it work, to entice the customers in.” Currently, SDA is working on themes emphasising ‘fresh’ – fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh deli, fresh meats – which Peter points out represents on the order of 35 to 45 per cent of sales. “So that needs to be the most enticing thing to emphasise.”

Peter travels to study markets abroad, recently in several European countries. “Product placement is important and we generally design down to the department, we locate the major departments within the store, then the retailers have assistance from their networks on exactly where to place individual products within the groups. We locate the major departments and the master flow of each store so that it is enticing. Then if you add the right ambience, the right lighting, floor finishes and the appearance of freshness, that entices people to buy.” This is an evolving art. “Every store is slightly different.”

Despite its current growth phase, the company has always retained its close relationship with clients. “We are only a small organisation – up to 15 architects and designers and project managers – so it’s not a big firm. We offer personalised service. If you come to Peter Harvey or Supermarket Design, you get the attention of the managing partner – that’s me – and another of our project architects that run each individual project.” In the case of many larger firms, says Peter, “you only see the managing partner once or twice, in the pitch to win the job.” Thereafter, depending on the hierarchical structure of the company, contact devolves to lower levels within the organisation. “But with us, you usually get me for most if not all of the project.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

May 29, 2020, 6:18 PM AEST