Industrial designer and director with Maynard, Julian Maynard talks to ADR about the intersection between art and engineering, the importance of mentors and how a dark period cast new light on his work.
Australian Design Review: Can you tell us about your background and how you got into the design industry?
Julian Maynard: When I was younger, I wanted to be either a cabinet maker or race car mechanic, but I discovered industrial design during my final years at school. This seemed to combine my love of craft and engineering. It led me to study at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal College of Art (RCA). During that time, I worked for Smart Design in New York and then left the RCA to join Grimshaw Architects to work on the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station in London.
ADR: Who or what inspires you?
JM: I think you always need a mentor in your early career and I was fortunate to work alongside Roland Paoletti for five years on the Jubilee Extension Project. He was quite a character, very inspirational with stories of working for Sir Basil Spence and the great Italian engineer Pierre Luigi Nervi. His vision and tenacity for the project carried on long after the line was opened. He would still call me up years later and invite me down to the Prospect of Witney, his local pub on the River Thames in London, and berate me about a detail that he thought we could have done better–always said with a mischievous smile though. A great man.
Carrying on the theme of engineering; being in a student in Manchester, England, a city at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, subconsciously had a big impact on me. You are surrounded by magnificent examples of Victorian engineering, the canal network, bridges, stations and warehouse buildings.
ADR: Every creative puts a part of themselves into their work. Which of your projects has been the most important to you and why?
JM: The large transport projects like the London underground Jubilee underground line and the current Crossrail project in England. It takes an immense amount of effort to get design on the agenda and it’s equally challenging to deliver a quality environment and customer experience. It’s also rewarding to be able to use the service on a daily basis.
On a smaller scale, it has been the design and publication of our company magazine Object. So often, when you are heads down delivering projects, you don’t have time to record the good work that everyone in the office is doing. It has also given us the opportunity to write some opinion pieces and invite contributions from some of our partners, which is gratifying.
ADR: What is your favourite place or space in Australia and why?
JM: I would have to choose the Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf in Walsh Bay at sunset. Industrial buildings are my favourite. It is a fantastic building and you can just smell and taste the history there in the worn timber flooring and metal cast lifting equipment. Industrial buildings are always functional; set out on a grid, full of patented mechanical products, all designed for a very specific purpose, which can be clearly understood through their form and detailing. I also like how the building has been repurposed and transformed into a theatre, showing how flexible these spaces can be. It’s interesting to be mingling with all the theatregoers having their pre-performance dinners, while you queue for a well-deserved drink at the end of the week. The view at sunset from the balcony with the powerful image of Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the finest examples of Victorian engineering in silhouette, isn’t a bad view to end the working week on is it?
ADR: What has been the most inspiring and/or defining moment of your life and why?
JM: This might sound rather morose but the passing of my father a couple of years ago brought home how little time we have in this world and that you should make the most of it. Therefore, it’s not a coincidence that we have expanded the business into new fields of expertise and have travelled to the other side of the world in search of new opportunities and experiences.
ADR: What would you say has been your proudest moment, either career-wise or otherwise?
JM: Travelling around the transport system in London with my family and knowing that I have made a small contribution to the design. On a smaller scale, it is the design of a new range of concrete street furniture ‘Tenplo’ that was recently shown at designjunction in London. The whole company got involved in the launch which was great to see.
ADR: What are you working on currently and what are your goals for the future, either personally or professionally?
JM: We are working on Crossrail in London and other transport projects in Australia, along with our urban realm wayfinding and street furniture projects. What is central to our work is the understanding of people’s needs and how they interact with their environment and products. This has led to us working on innovation projects with universities to gain more evidence-based data so that we can produce design that betters the life of everybody. The projects we are interested in are usually quite complex and we like to think we can bring some clarity and empathy to the process of what we call ‘Social Design’. Earlier this year we set up offices in Auckland and Melbourne. We also intend to grow the business in Australasia with the help of the team, many of who have returned home to this part of the world, which enables us to understand the local context and culture. An exciting time for us all.