McConnel Smith & Johnson Architects merges with Conrad Gargett

Sep 2, 2020
  • Article by Tili Bensley-Nettheim

Sydney-based architecture practice McConnel Smith & Johnson Architects (MSJ), has merged with Conrad Gargett, taking the national architectural firm to 176 employees across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. 

Established following the successful competition entry for the Brisbane Head Fire Station by Henry Atkinson in 1890, Conrad Gargett celebrates its 130th anniversary this year.

Toowoomba Hospital redevelopment by Conrad Gargett. Photo: Conrad Gargett.

Over the years the practice has built a reputation for client-focused design, delivering a significant portfolio of commercial and institutional projects in Queensland’s South-East. A series of strategic mergers since 2012 has seen the firm grow in size, specialisation and geographic footprint.

Conrad Gargett managing director Lawrence Toaldo.

“Our continual evolution as a practice has enabled us to harness diverse thinking to creatively solve complex problems; skills that are becoming increasingly urgent in meeting the current global challenges of climate, equity, security and health,” says Conrad Gargett’s managing director Lawrence Toaldo.

“Today marks the next phase of our growth as we look forward to welcoming the MSJ team on the 1st September.” 

In the 65 years that Sydney-based MSJ has been established, the practice has delivered a legacy of projects which successfully integrate social, cultural and environmental landscapes that have shaped the direction of Australian architecture.

Gosford Hospital designed by MSJ. Photo: MSJ.

MSJ has a reputation for successfully delivering major hospital and healthcare, educational and research and residential and recreational developments, with place-making at the core.

From their first city buildings of the 1950s, to the Johnson House and Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, Melbourne and Cairns Hospital, Queensland, the practice has developed a rich language of form that is both responsive and responsible. 

“Guided by the same values of design and social responsibility of architecture, we see a strong connection between our practices. Merging with MSJ, gives Conrad Gargett an opportunity to increase our offer to clients, giving them access to an incredible depth of design skills and expertise to further explore and extend the possibilities of architecture and technology,” says Toaldo.

Rockhampton Art Gallery designed by Conrad Gargett. Image: Conrad Gargett, Clare Design, Brian Hooper Architect.

MSJ director Ian Moon sees the merger a complimentary synergy in regard to the two firm’s longevity and design-thinking.

“Merging with Conrad Gargett gives the team at MSJ the opportunity to leverage our design strength in health, research and education to a wider base of clients both nationally and internationally,” says Moon.

With studios in Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney, Townsville and Addis Ababa, Conrad Gargett’s merger with MSJ doubles the firm’s Sydney studio to 50.

MSJ directors, Ian Moon, Mark Willett and John Zadro will join Conrad Gargett as principals in the Sydney studio. There will be no change to McConnel Smith & Johnson Architects people, clients or projects.

Conrad Gargett’s Sydney studio will be located at Jones Bay Wharf as of mid-October.

Last week, design consultant Geyer announced it has been acquired by The Intelligent Consulting Group. This was ushered in with a rebrand.

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