A Tradition of Design Excellence

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

With a rich history of service and design spanning over a century, The Buchan Group has evolved from its roots in Victoria into an interdisciplinary design group serving the needs of clients across Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom. Under the leadership of 31 directors and principals, the 300-employee strong design group is widely acclaimed for its experience and excellence in design in many sectors, including retail, residential, mixed use developments, commercial offices, hotels, civic, health, education, and entertainment and lifestyle. One of Australia’s largest and most prominent architectural firms, The Buchan Group’s commitment to excellence is known worldwide, with clients seeking out services from seven locations across Australia as well as New Zealand, and London, Shanghai, and Dubai.

Tracing its roots back to 1890, The Buchan Group is unlike other architectural practices that carry out master planning, interiors and graphics. As a design practice, the firm has earned countless accolades over its 122-year-long history, not only for the superior quality of its designs, but for its abilities to assess itself on an ongoing basis and evolve to better serve the needs of all clients.

As part of wider The Buchan Group, the Sydney office is continually striving to update its approach to design, and the processes and commercial practice of architectural, interior and graphic design. Acknowledging the importance of ‘pillars’ in the history of architecture, The Buchan Group’s Sydney office has recently came up with ‘Five Pillars’ for the company’s strategic success. Through a cooperative effort incorporating all staff along with collaborators and a survey group, teams were formed to identify the fundamentals of the company’s success. “The five pillars included renewing the brand, reinvigorating design management, external collaboration, internal collaboration, and promoting leadership to deliver transformation for the business,” says Nathan Hones, Principal in the Sydney office. Following a 20-question survey of employees, five groups – each addressing a single pillar – were formed, each led by a senior staff member. Each group worked on five or six points, and information was then fed back into The Buchan Group to illustrate how the company can continue to build upon its strengths.

The process, says Mr Hones, not only serves to assess the company’s goals and objectives, but is a reflection of The Buchan Group’s policy of openness. Instead of a closed-door policy, the company believes in open channels of dialogue, which encourage the flow of ideas and a greater contribution to the overall design process. This collaborative culture in turn benefits staff members on their paths to personal and professional growth.

Giving Back to the Community

As a strong advocate of helping others, The Buchan Group is active in a number of charities. Recently, the company served as the lead consultant for the architectural, interior and graphic design of the new Leukaemia Foundation ESA Village at the Boggo Road Urban Village at Brisbane’s Dutton Park. Working with the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland, The Buchan Group designed the 5,750 m² project—featuring four levels of residential apartments, office and patient support facilities and a basement car park—vital accommodation for leukaemia patients and their families during treatment. The village is close to the hearts of staff at the firm, and is the result of a long-standing relationship with the Leukaemia Foundation Queensland (LFQ) and their late founder of the Group’s Brisbane practice, Paul Malone, who was himself diagnosed with leukaemia and went on to help others with the disease.

Additionally, the practice is a great believer in working with young people interested in the business of design. The company has been making inroads with a number of universities and seeking to embrace social media such as Linkedin, Facebook and Blogger to engage in the wider conversation on design and the built environment. “We’ve been in business for over 100 years, and what we’d like to do is to take that knowledge and share it with some of the universities as part of their professional practice course,” says Mr Hones. “We would like to say to students, ‘Design is critically important, but there’s no point being a great designer if you can’t operate a successful business.”

Sustainability and Strength of Design

The Buchan Group has been an advocate of sustainability in design for many years, and regards it as a basic principle of every design commission it takes on. With Green Star accredited professionals on staff, the company’s sustainable projects include shopping centres, mixed use developments, residential and office towers, and more.

Currently under construction is Stockland Shellharbour on the coast south of Sydney. A major shopping centre redevelopment valued in excess of $300 million, the Four Star Green Star design and build rated project is a 35,000 m² addition to the existing shopping centre, as well as the refurbishment of the existing centre which is itself about 30,000 m². The project started following a competition in 2005, when The Buchan Group was selected to design the project and overall master plan. Since that time, the company has worked in tandem with the client, Stockland and builder Brookfield Multiplex to make the project a reality.

Already under construction and ahead of program, the project is expected to take three years to complete. The first major opening took place in early May; the project will ultimately be finished in July, 2013. Once completed, the project will become an integral part of the town centre of Shellharbour and its local community.

“Once completed, Stockland Shellharbour will have the largest solar panel (photovoltaic cells) for a shopping centre in Australia,” says Buchan Group Sydney Associate Michael Morony of the construction, which incorporates recycled materials wherever possible. “It will also feature wind turbines on the rooftop car park deck, grey water recycling, and water retention on site for irrigation and testing.”

Other environmental initiatives will include a naturally ventilated car parking structure. Other notably sustainable designs include the Five Star Green Star rated Chadstone Shopping Centre West Mall in Victoria, the first to achieve such a rating, and Alluvion, a 20 level Four Star office tower in the west end of Perth’s CBD.

Apple Flagship Store, George Street

All design projects require careful planning and precise details, and the company’s recent design for computer giant Apple is certainly no exception. Located in Sydney, The Buchan Group worked in close conjunction with Apple and other international partners, including San Francisco-based Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and Eckersley O’Callaghan in London.

Seeking a presence in Australia, Apple contacted The Buchan Group because of its retail pedigree and local knowledge. The project took just over a year to deliver and the Buchan group team was led by Senior Associate Liam Kelly.

“Apple is an unusual client, in that they know exactly what they want,” says Mr Kelly. “What the architects bring to that formula is, ‘How to exactly achieve what Apple wants in a particular location?’” The Apple stores are designed to go into existing shells, and are designed with pinpoint accuracy to the technical specifications of any other apple product like the iPad and iPhone. The documentation for the three-floor store, in fact, was carried out one tenth of a decimal point. So it was basically delivering these things to a manufacturing specification rather than a construction industry specification.”

Key Projects

At present, The Buchan Group is working on a number of significant projects, including Oran Park Town Centre Retail Shopping Centre and the Wet‘n’Wild theme park. Although the designs could not be more different, they share the same attention to detail and commitment to quality evidenced in all of the firm’s projects.

Destined to be one of the greenest shopping centres in New South Wales, Oran Park Town will be situated in Sydney’s South West growth corridor area, surrounded by residential areas only an hour from the CBD. A joint development by Greenfields Development Company and Landcom, Oran Park will serve as Sydney’s newest town, and provide a wide range of amenities and attractions, including education, retail, commercial, entertainment, community, civic, open space, and a town park on a 1,300 hectare site with 12,000 lots.

On the other end of the design spectrum is Wet‘n’Wild. The first theme park to be constructed in New South Wales since Australia’s Wonderland over 20 years ago, this exciting $100 million development will benefit not only local families but the area’s economy. Wet‘n’Wild will be built on a 25.5 hectare site situated on Reservoir Road in Prospect. Estimated to attract about a million visitors per year, the state of the art water theme park will thrill with the latest rides, wave pool, water technology, and its own beach.

The various offices of The Buchan Group have completed a wide array of successful projects over the years – including the Westfield London Shopping Centre, Raffles City Retail Centre in Shanghai, the Treasury, Jupiter’s and Star casinos in Queensland and NSW, the Hilton Surfers Paradise, Bendigo Bank in Melbourne, New Zealand’s Christchurch Art Gallery, and No.1 Martin Place, Broadway Shopping Centre and The Wharf At Woolloomooloo in Sydney, to name a few. Notwithstanding this portfolio and a strong sense of history, the company will continue to build on its solid foundations and further develop its strategic direction.

Recently, the company has been investigating mixed-use architecture and future retail trends in Australia, which are heading toward a more varied and diverse shopping centre typology focusing on an enhanced customer experience. “We are utilising our strengths, but also looking at other sectors and advances in technology for learning, inspiration and new opportunities.”

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’?

June 14, 2021, 12:00 PM AEST