Lawrence Toaldo

There’s still a sense of wait-and-see hanging over the built environment industry due to Covid but that hasn’t stopped two major architecture firms going ahead with a merger.

After a M&A discussions that started well over a year ago, Conrad Gargett and McConnel Smith & Johnson have decided to join forces.

The merger will bring the national practice to 176 employees across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, with no change to the Sydney-based MSJ team, clients or projects.

For Conrad Gargett managing director Lawrence Toaldo, the merger signalled an opportunity for the Brisbane-oriented architecture studio, which is currently celebrating its 130th year, to “even out any bumps and lumps” in its geographical capacity. The merger will see Conrad Gargett’s Sydney studio double to 50.

As a highly specialised health and research practice based in Sydney, MSJ filled a skillset gap in Sydney for his multidisciplinary studio that focuses primarily on health, defence, education and seniors living. It also works on transport, interior and retail projects, albeit in a smaller capacity.

Mr Toaldo said that his company has been quite resilient to Covid thanks to its diversification efforts, with health a pretty well-insulated sector compared to some others.

He said that the biggest concern for the industry remains how long the pandemic will go on for, so that business optimism can return, with commercial projects in particular set back by six months initially and another six months a possibility.

The studio also has a strong track record on social and environmental sustainability with the innovative Queensland Children’s Hospital its flagship project.

Mr Toaldo said that patient welfare via gardens and outdoor spaces has long been part of its design remit and now the healthcare industry is starting to recognise the importance of energy performance to keep recurrent costs down.

“There’s now a greater focus on whole of life costs so that buildings are designed in a way that don’t labour the society with huge ongoing costs.”

He also said that Covid has propelled the wellbeing of overworked nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers into the spotlight, and expects employee wellbeing to factor into hospital and healthcare facility designs going forward.

Warren and Mahoney on growth path

Sydney seems to be where the action is with Auckland-based architecture studio Warren and Mahoney boosting its team in the harbourside city.

New recruits are Claire Matheson as associate principal and Tom Vanderberg as senior associate.

Ms Matheson joined the studio in May after three and a half years working at Fender Katsalidis as associate director.

She’s also worked at Scott Carver in Sydney, Doig Architecture in Melbourne and for several UK practices.

Before Warren and Mahoney, Tom Vandenberg was at Grimshaw where he was project architect on the Green Square Pool project.

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