Getting to know Technè: profiling the dynamic design practice

Founded in 2002, Technè Architecture + Interior Design is a practice that has built an impressive portfolio across a broad section of project types. Although they have completed projects across hospitality, single and multi-residential, commercial, automotive and retail, they are probably best known for their work in hospitality on projects such as The Prahran Hotel, The Bridge Hotel, Terminus and Jimmy Grants.

The name Technè comes from the ancient Greek word which means "to make, poetically" and is at the heart of what the practice strives to achieve and what it stands for.

Urban Melbourne recently caught up with Technè Directors Nick Travers and Justin Northrop in their Hardware Lane offices to find out a bit more about the burgeoning practice's beginnings and their aspirations for the future.

Prahran Hotel exterior and interior.

Travers and Northrop have worked together for nearly 20 years. First meeting during 1998 as fresh-faced architectural graduates in the design department of a large commercial architectural practice, their day-to-day work on major projects evolved into a partnership of weekend work that ultimately led to the creation of Atelier Technè.

The office currently employs a staff of 27 including architects, interior designers, graduates and students. According to Northrop the size of the current team provides a good opportunity to consolidate their skills and focus on what they're currently doing. The duo doesn’t hold ambitions of growing the office into a big practice; rather they are content to see where opportunities and the collective capabilities of the team might take them.

Having grown organically over the years, Technè 's origins as a partnership saw them sublet space with Six Degrees in West Melbourne. The catalyst project for the pair was The Deanery bar and restaurant, kicking off their hospitality work in the process.

Their co-location with Six Degrees in their infancy was a good move according to Travers; personally not keen on working out of the corner of his apartment, he wanted to feel the sense of collegiality that Six Degrees offered. Even though they were working on their own projects Travers and Northrop both felt like they were a part of something bigger. The sublet also gave the duo access to a great resource with a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be drawn on.

The experience we had at that time was primarily large-scale concept work. We went from this to running a small studio so we couldn’t have been more ill-prepared [laughs] in terms of our on-the-job training.

This is another reason why it was useful working in the same space as Six Degrees, we were able to reach out to them for advice when we needed it.

Justin Northrop

Beyond that point Technè has experienced steady growth. The studio was able to land a large commercial client Porsche within the first five years of their business, which signalled a change for the practice.

The relationship with Porsche came about initially through Travers’ passion for cars. Porsche were considering options for decanting their leased warehouse space at Tullamarine and subsequently purchasing a property to develop a warehouse for their parts distribution nationally. This required a business case to be put forward to their management in Germany.

Porsche came to Technè asking if they could build a model of their current capacity vs their future needs and how the two didn't align. The model was presented in Germany and they received sign off to begin looking at acquiring a site to build what was essentially a 3,000sqm shed.

Technè assisted with scoping and securing of the site, feasibility studies and eventually designed and documented the facility. Not long after, Porsche asked Technè to work on the refurbishment of Porsche Centre Melbourne on Victoria Parade leading to the practice becoming the national representatives for the design of Porsche dealerships throughout the country.

Porche Doncaster.

When the global financial crisis hit, the office had about half the staff they currently employ. Fortunately, due to the diversity of projects they were involved with at the time they were able to navigate through what was a tough period for many other practices. Even though Porsche presents as a blue chip client Travers explains Technè has never relied on one particular type of project or one big return client, instead holding a broad list of clients.

It's been a good process, having grown organically. Even our own personal growth and improvement in our capabilities and our confidence is a big part of it. The capacity to employ good people is important - we're starting to employ people that can do a better job than we can [laughs].

We’re now hiring more senior people. We have a really good mix of experience in the studio – it’s very balanced.

Nick Travers

Northrop adds in that the way the office operates now, the directors are able to let senior team members take the lead on projects. The growing experience and expertise in the team has provided Technè with the ability and confidence to seek out opportunities for other types of projects. The studio has established a particular focus on the expansion into workplace, hotels, retail and multi-residential.

It's interesting how small jobs, a singular sketch or a model can lead to bigger projects. It's a reminder of why it's foolish to turn away jobs if they’re small – there’s always potential behind them.

We've always tried to look after those jobs because you never know what they might lead to.

Justin Northrop

According to Travers, being responsive when clients are relying on them to make big decisions is critical to building trust and a strong client relationship.

Travers cites their pub work as some of his most enjoyable projects. He sees the collaborative process and effort required as part of the reason the outcomes are so special and unique. The fact that unlike other projects the pubs can be enjoyed by the design team socially presents a unique opportunity to see first hand how people are making use of the spaces they have designed.

Places such as The Prahran Hotel and Terminus are "fun places" says Northrop and that comes from the team's enjoyment working on them.

Technè currently has a number of projects on the drawing board including a boutique hotel, the redevelopment of a historic pub in Melbourne’s CBD, the riverfront precinct at the Alphington Paper Mill site. Also upcoming is a restaurant, bar and boutique brewery within the bluestone walls of the heritage-listed former Pentridge laundry as part of Future Estate's development.

A selection of Technè projects.
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