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“Contextual design should inspire a sympathetic approach to materials” in regional projects

“Contextual design should inspire a sympathetic approach to materials” in regional projects


Context is king when it comes to designing for a regional setting.

With recent travel restrictions encouraging more Australians to opt for a staycation these holidays, regional destinations are turning to city design studios and practices for advice on how to transform their spaces into destinations.

Technē Architecture + Interior Design directors Nick Travers (right), Justin Northrop and Steve McKeag (centre).

In this opinion piece, Technē Architecture + Interior Design director Nick Travers explains why a one-size-fits-all, city-centric approach won’t fly in regional settings, and what considerations designers and architects should be making before putting pen to paper.

“How can I turn my venue into a destination?”

It’s a question I’m now often being asked from operators located outside major urban centres who are eager to capitalise on people looking closer to home for holidays and entertainment.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for every business, an adaptive approach combining unique elements and a destination-centric outlook can transform regional venues into must-visit experiential hot spots.

Years of working on inner city design projects across Melbourne have demonstrated to me the importance of turning spaces into multi-sensory experiences engaging all demographics.

The interaction of design elements like colour, form and texture have enlivened unique hospitality, commercial and residential projects in ways far beyond the pure social media aesthetic.

These projects have revealed key learnings that can be applied to regional venues in making them memorable destinations that enhance the tourism and hospitality experience.

Regional areas are no longer restricted by the often highly conservative design boundaries of past decades.

Business and venue owners are embracing the popularity of regional travel. They are enthusiastic about the opportunity to place themselves on the map through ambitious projects with design outcomes attracting widespread visitors and complementing other local offerings.

Technē Garden State keeps true to the ideals of a traditional pub and the feel of a Victorian conservatory.

That being said, I understand that not all city design outcomes can simply be replicated in a regional context. We appreciate that the size, scope and local clientele of every venue must first be considered.

As many regional business and venue owners look to implement ‘capital city’ design models in their venues, it’s important not to forget the local clientele by introducing bold design outcomes that my feel out of place in the community. This is where the importance of authenticity comes in.

Authentic design solutions for regional venues respond not just to a client’s brief, but to a holistic overview of the entire business, considering its identity and its significance in the community for locals who offer repeat business.

Balancing innovative design with considerations of location and purpose is a delicate act that must also consider what is realistic within time and budget constraints.

Acknowledging the locational attributes of a venue is an essential aspect of any regional design or development project.

Thorough research should be undertaken into the location of a client’s business or venue in the context of its surrounding natural and built environments, attractions, and community facilities.

Contextual design should inspire a sympathetic approach to materials, which is unique for every client.

Appreciating that some materials are better suited to particular locations, work with textures, forms and finishes that complement both the business’ identity and also its surrounding environment.

At a very early stage, the regional design process should draw on the stories and potential heritage relevance of a site.

Conserving the original design or reinterpreting existing elements with a fresh twist is essential in the character building and legacy.

To conclude, in today’s climate, unique design and experiences are incredibly important – people are looking for more than just a drink at a bar.

Regional venues now have an opportunity to attract a whole new clientele using inner-city designs as inspiration. These regional venues should now more than ever work to elevate their offering to become attractive ‘must visit’ destinations.

Founded in 2002 by Travers and Justin Northrop, Technē Architecture + Interior Design is behind the renovation of some of Melbourne’s best known hospitality and entertainment venues including Melbourne Central and The Espy, as well as Heritage homes like this one in Carlton.

Lead photo: Technē’s Prahran Hotel. Photo: Shannon McGrath.

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