Tradition and Change

JPE Design Studios

It may be one of the oldest architectural practices in the country but JPE Design Studios is looking forward, not back.

Founded in Adelaide in 1851 by Daniel Garlick, an English architect who had come to practise in South Australia, JPE is today a modern design studio with a portfolio of contemporary work, says Director Adrian Evans. In a tough market, JPE has a diverse range of quality design projects under construction and newly completed. With prospects in and around SA “very uncertain” for 2014, JPE is about to explore business connections in China. “We are going to pursue some opportunities we have over there, as well as interstate. Although JPE has been here for some 160 years as a company, we would like to adapt our business to be an Adelaide based design practice with global engagement.”

Indeed, SA is a tough proposition in this market. Adrian notes that three of the biggest architectural practices in the world grew up in the state, as well as one of the largest construction corporations. “In architectural terms it’s quite a testing place. It’s often been said that if you can survive here you can make it anywhere in the world. It’s interesting how few architectural firms have come into Adelaide in the last 20 to 30 years,” he notes.

“SA has been very good to us but opportunities are limited,” says Adrian, “and it is time to look further afield.” There has been a lot of government spending in the last few years resulting in a number of infrastructure projects being completed, although private sector spending has been tight. So Adrian, his fellow director Kaare Krokene and the 20 or so staff at JPE have been hard at work developing an integrated design approach beyond ‘just’ architecture into interior design, landscape architecture and urban design (including master planning). “It has been successful over the last decade or so and a source of some satisfaction, but we still seek further and wider opportunities in the realm of the built environment.”

So JPE is embracing the ‘Asian Century’ concept. “There is great potential to look elsewhere for additional support.” Adrian and Kaare, having built some strong relationships, will be travelling to Shanghai in April and seeking reciprocal arrangements and offering partnerships with Chinese investors. “There are many investors from China looking at Australia in general and Adelaide in particular for investment, especially in the apartment housing market. We are very keen to foster collaboration with firms in China that appreciate the benefits good design can bring to a project – and we may have the opportunity to work in China too. Jointly, we can introduce each other to developers and potential investors, establishing cross cultural benefits.”

The company’s experience in the wider built environment space is expected to stand JPE in good stead. Adrian, who has been visiting China since 1967, says he has noticed how Chinese developers enjoy incorporating a ‘western’ element into their projects wherever possible. “It often adds value for them to have a western designer associated with their project,” he explains. Of course, JPE’s intimate knowledge of how SA and its capital, Adelaide, works is of enormous value to anyone entering that market and Chinese developers are well known to value longevity and history, making the company’s background another advantage. But JPE is also optimistic of working with a local practice in Shanghai on projects in and around that metropolis too. “It’s been happening for a long time now. We know of many other practices that are already in China and delivering just that.”

To be sure, China is “part of Australia’s future,” shares Adrian. “We are at a point where we believe we should look beyond SA. Our business model seeks to build upon our Adelaide success into other selective markets.” JPE is gearing up accordingly with a briskness that belies its 160 years. “Like others in many sectors, we are transforming our business from year to year,” to incorporate new ideas in management and technology and the ability to adapt to the changing needs of today’s modern culture.

Adrian stresses, though, that although everyone is looking forward keenly to the new horizons opening up. JPE remains very much an Adelaide institution and will continue to service its valued long-time clients and establish new local relationships – but with a new global edge to its practice.

Home Automation

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July 16, 2020, 9:51 AM AEST