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Q&ADR: Technē director Steve McKeag

Q&ADR: Technē director Steve McKeag


Recently appointed as a director of Technē Architecture + Interior Design, Steve McKeag joins founders Justin Northrop and Nick Travers as the third director of the practice, which has recently completed a swathe of iconic projects including Garden State Hotel, Rooftop Bar and Cinema, and Brunetti Flinders Lane. Here he is in conversation with ADR.

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you first became interested/involved in architecture?

I’ve always been interested in human relationships and love working with people. I became interested in architecture from a young age when my parents built a house with an architect so I suppose even then I was exposed to the relationship between designer and client. The process inspired me to pursue it as a career.

After graduating, I spent several years working in London and Melbourne for a variety of large and small architectural practices before joining Technē in 2007. Now, as Technē’s newest director, I’m able to continue my strong focus on client relationships and concentrate on securing new business and delivering complex projects.

Techne has recently worked on some pretty iconic Melbourne institutions – (Rooftop Cinema, Brunetti) and now the Espy. How does it feel to be involved in building/altering the cultural fabric of the city? Does it come with some sense of trepidation?

Like its occupants, the cultural fabric of a city is ever-changing and growing. It’s a privilege to be trusted with iconic venues such as Brunetti, Rooftop and the Espy because they present the chance to celebrate the history of each space while welcoming a new chapter. Because cities are always evolving with their occupants, it’s important that these institutions demand architectural designs that demonstrate an awareness of the future of the venue as well as the past.

At Technē we’re very much aware that working with these kinds of projects is a privilege so, rather than approaching with a sense of trepidation, we approach with a determination to make them first and foremost enjoyable places to be in. We work to create great designs that capture the imagination, while staying true to the site’s heritage.

Garden State Hotel by Techne

The Garden State Hotel

How important are people skills when working in design? And, in regard to this, what piece of advice would you give to those starting out in the industry?

People skills in the design industry are incredibly important because human relationships are vital to an innovative architecture and design practice. With clients in particular, it’s essential to create an aligned creative vision and set about achieving that together early on so communicating confidently and simply is a key skill no matter where you are in your career.

My advice to those starting out in the industry would be to remember that architecture can be exceptionally challenging, but the rewards are extraordinary. I have the privilege of being able to work with a number of young designers and architects at Technē and I maintain that keeping in mind the fact that the rewards are always greater when you put more in.

Who or what is inspiring you in 2018?

In 2018 I’ve been inspired by the possibilities presented by multi-faceted precinct design. Entertainment and leisure precincts create the chance for hospitality design to engage with surrounding retail, commercial or residential projects in a way that creates a sense of cohesion and activates the other areas. By considering the way projects interconnect, hospitality design plays a part in crafting a fully immersive experience that can uplift the quality of public space. Looking forward, I feel that these kinds of projects create the ultimate opportunity for designers and architects to create vibrant places that are valued by their communities.

Brunetti Flinders Lane

Brunetti Flinders Lane

What is your favourite place/space in Australia and why?

At the moment I’m really enamoured with designs that offer a creative solution to spaces that would otherwise have been dismissed as unusable. In particular, hospitality designs that act to rejuvenate previously disregarded or derelict spaces are an excellent example of elevation through design. These types of projects find innovative, socially-mindful, and often very striking bespoke solutions ways to adapt older sites in a way that allows them to remain relevant and active in the cultural fabric of a city.

Projects like Melbourne’s Ponyfish Island and Arbory Bar and Eatery are both incredibly inventive examples of the adaptive re-use of complex urban spaces as both create a sense of place while respecting the existing site and complimenting the wider environment via the well thought out use of materials and technology.

What is the piece of work are you most proud of, and why?

The Richmond Club Hotel was one of the first projects where we had the chance to demonstrate the full textural richness of what is possible on a large pub project, by preserving character and creating new spaces to be explored. Still in the hospitality space, I’m very proud of the work we’ve just completed on the redevelopment of Rooftop Bar & Cinema. With a much improved bar area and an Art Deco meets 1950s drive-in feel we’ve kept the personality of a cherished Melbourne nightspot but given it the update it deserved after its first decade. There are also numerous residential projects I’m proud of.

As well as those achievements, one thing I feel strongly about is my contribution to the culture of Technē. I have helped to create a workplace where everyone can be their best and openly share ideas and creativity.

What are you working on currently and what your goals/ambitions are for 2018.

At the moment I’m working on a great single residential project in Prahran that converts a warehouse into a home with a suspended lap pool over a gallery space. It’s a thrill to be able to build someone’s dream home and I must admit that it’s given me some ideas to add to my own fantasy home – if only my budget would expand with my ideas!

I’m also working on the major renovation of the Palace Hotel. Having the honour of being trusted with ‘redressing the great dame of Camberwell’ means that we’ve been able to draw on our experience with the rejuvenation of other venues such as the Village Belle Hotel and Bridge Hotel. We’re working on creating an outcome that will be relevant, respectful of the sites history and most importantly an amazing space socialize in.

2018 is an exciting year for Technē and for me personally. As Technē’s newest director I’m aiming to meet and exceed the expectations of our clients and maintain a strong focus on team communication.

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