While Robert and Debbie enjoy working on innovative residential designs such as the award-winning Klein Bottle House and Cloud House projects Defign featured last week, commercial and public work tends to take up most of their time.
"In our early days, we worked mostly on smaller residential projects, but since then, our business has grown, and the scope of our work has changed significantly. While we certainly still enjoy working on new homes and alterations, I would say 90% of our work is now in the commercial and public area," says Robert.
Robert, Debbie and their team have worked on some particularly large projects, with budgets up to $1 Billion, including schools, hospitals and universities. While they enjoy working on projects of this scale, Robert says it can sometimes be challenging.
"With some of our larger projects, there are lots of stakeholders, meetings, and project managers to deal with, along with budgetary restraints, and there is never a shortage of opinions. It’s really different from our residential work where we often find design briefs can be quite open, whereas commercial and public projects usually come with very specific and sometimes complex requirements that we have to stick with."
One of the public projects Robert and Debbie are currently working on is the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), a new purpose-built facility for cancer research and treatment in Melbourne's famous bio-medical precinct.
"It's essentially the gateway to that precinct, and is on a large site in the middle of three roads. It involves a number of partners, so there's been a real collaborative element to this project. We have embraced this in the overall design which is symbolic and representative of the bringing together of these separate partners, the creation of new networks, and clusters of collaboration," says Debbie.
The VCCC is on track for a 2016 completion date, and Robert and Debbie say it will be instantly recognisable all around the world for its unique appearance and bustling location filled with busy retail areas and medical facilities.
"Along with its surrounding buildings, the VCCC will create an intriguing and delightful pedestrian environment and will greatly contribute to the public realm in Melbourne," says Robert.
Another public building designed by the McBride Charles Ryan team is the Yardmasters Building which was completed in 2009. It is mysterious in appearance, and can only be accessed via a series of underground tunnels which are sealed off from the public - but it certainly stands out from afar.
"It's a moody building which changes with the weather. It sits confidently on its site, and in its position as a public building. Looking at it, it appears to be a sealed box, and you find yourself asking 'what goes on in there?' Although inaccessible, it still offers itself back to the city, offering something intriguing it in its own way," says Debbie.
Robert says the building's industrial location presented a number of challenges.
"It was difficult working in the rail yards, as you can only build between 12am and 4am. On top of time constraints, all of the components of the building were precast off-site in Adelaide, and had to be sent to Melbourne for assembly."
The Yardmasters Building won several awards, including the Award for Public Architecture (New) at the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Chapter Annual Awards in 2010.
"This project was particularly successful because it's a building of longevity, and too many of those utilitarian buildings are not thought of in terms of longevity," says Debbie.
If you'd like to hear more about Robert and Debbie's work, don't miss out on their 'Stirring the Imagination' seminars as part of ADNZ's International Speaker Series. They’ll be giving their insights on upcoming design trends, as well as discussing how their firm borrows from Architectural History, mathematics and everyday culture to realise original, unlikely and technology sophisticated expressions for their clients.
Dates and Locations:
29 April: Auckland - Five Knots, Tamaki Yacht Club
30 April: Wellington - Mac's Brew Bar
1 May: Christchurch - Hagley Oval Pavilion
(5:30pm open for all events, with a 6:30pm start)
Don't miss out on tickets - visit http://www.adnz.org.nz/ for details