Interview: Scott Walker of HASSELL

Nov 16, 2011
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer

Scott, congratulations to HASSELL on being shortlisted for the Designer of the Year award for IDEA 2011. What have been the most enjoyable projects for you this year?
It is the diversity of projects coming into our studios, rather than highlighting specific projects, that characterises the past 12 months. Having the opportunity to integrate knowledge from various sectors, and bring the very best talent to every project team, allows us to deliver informed designs.
We are working on a vast range of projects throughout Australia, China and South East Asia, including workplace, hospitality, health and residential. Credit Suisse in Singapore is a particularly interesting project we won earlier this year. It is a major workplace project involving the introduction of their ‘Smart Working’ model, which is essentially a non-territorial approach to the workplace. It is an interesting shift to design environments for these types of strategies.

What have been some of your more challenging moments for 2011?
Time and money is always a ‘challenge’ and this year has been no different.
The biggest challenge has been in Australia, where some of the major projects we are involved with have been slower to come on line than expected. In a country with a small population, amidst a gloomy global outlook, this makes decision making slower and more complex than it would be otherwise.

This year, HASSELL has worked on a trio of hospitality projects in South Yarra in Melbourne: Deba, Mopho Noodle Bar and the Outpost Dining Room. How did you approach a brief that required you to build a visual identity for this new precinct?
Diversity was a key theme in the broader design. As the developer, Michael Yates recognised it is only through an active and dynamic street front that a development can sustain long-term success. It was important that Yarra Lane (with architecture by Bird de la Coeur) read as a village high street – a collection of individual shop/restaurants coming together to form a community. Through scale, proportion and materiality the diverse range of designs became a cohesive collection. Perversely, it’s through their difference that they appear more similar.

Among your commercial projects, Deakin Prime is interesting as it fuses commercial design with a hospitality aesthetic. How did this project evolve?
HASSELL obviously has a strong heritage in workplace design and in recent years has developed a number of projects connected to the education and tertiary sectors. Deakin Prime is a wing or division of Deakin University, with its charter to integrate the tertiary sector with the corporate sector. Needless to say, both tertiary institutions and the business community have a lot to learn from each other. Deakin Prime is designed as a space to bring people together – for training, knowledge sharing or social functions. Fundamentally a workplace, Deakin Prime reflects new moves towards hybrid spaces across the design industry. Taking cues from hospitality design (particularly hotels), workplace and the education sector, it is part of the conversation about what the new workplace is. Deakin Prime recognises that engagement between people and groups is fundamental in the success of a workplace.

What other projects are in the pipeline, and what are you looking forward to next year?
Next year looks to be a bigger year than 2011. We expect a reasonably diverse range of projects to continue, with workplace projects driving our interior design. Our studios in Asia (and now London) will also bring opportunities well into 2012 and allow us to meet the needs of local clients. We are now able to better understand their business in its global context – not just from a regional perspective – and offer them the best possible design outcome. We are also hoping the days will extend to 26 hours next year, so we can get it all done.

HASSELL is one of six firms nominated for the Designer of the Year: Judges’ Award at IDEA 2011, sponsored by Corporate Culture.

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