Karl Fender, right

The top names in architecture are branching into new markets to establish a firmer footing in Australia’s fast-growing capital cities. And they’re continuing to add capability in new disciplines such as urban design and planning.

Last month, ARM, the studio that gave Melbourne some of its most radical designs, such as Southbank Theatre and Melbourne Recital Centre, has moved into Sydney, with director Mark Raggatt at the helm.

Among other projects, the team will be working on the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall upgrade, the Macquarie Park masterplan, the Sydney College of the Arts relocation (University of Sydney) the Blacktown International Centre for Training Excellence and a mixed-use over-station development.

“Architecture is local. It has its feet in the dirt. We’re here to learn from Sydney, to contribute to the story of Sydney. And to do that we felt we needed to have our feet in the dirt,” Raggatt said.

There’s no doubt the result will be some strong branding for the institutions to be graced with the ARM touch.  But whether corporate Sydney will also embrace the radical ARM look remains to be seen.

Melbourne Theatre Company by ARM. Photo: Peter Glenane Photography

Peter Poulet moves to GSC

Another notable move in architecture is by NSW government architect Peter Poulet who has left the gig that he took up in 2012, after what some say has been a controversial few years for the office. Poulet was announced in a new role on Friday, as Central Sydney [Parramatta] District Commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission, adding to his role as deputy chair of the Central Sydney Planning Committee.

Parramatta incidentally is currently going through its own controversy after dubious credentials of its new chief executive Mark Stapleton appeared in the media.

In another design related move Melbourne-based architecture firm Fender Katsalidis boosted its profile in Sydney with a function in August to celebrate its new digs in George Street.

The firm expanded into Sydney a decade under the aegis of Karl Fender and Rob Mirams, and since 2017, has been operating under a unified brand nationally in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. In Sydney the studio has a diverse mix of projects ranging from commercial, multi residential, aged care, transport, cultural and interiors. Key projects include 32 Smith Street in Parramatta, a 26,000 square metres office tower, the result of a design competition held by Parramatta City Council.

In Brisbane the studio is working on the Midtown Centre, a transformation of two existing 20-storey office buildings in central Brisbane into a single commercial tower.

And in a reverse move from Sydney design studio, Architectus has recently announced a new urban design and planning team to be based in Melbourne with Dean Thornton appointed as principal architect.

The Architectus team currently has 350 architects and other design experts (including urban planners) in its studios across Adelaide, Brisbane, Christchurch, Melbourne and Sydney.

It’s not all peaches and cream in the architecture world. Some sources have recently indicated that residential architects are preparing to cut their staff in the face of a cooling housing market.

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