During Carr’s five decades of design practice, no two years were ever the same. This reality continues today as economic unpredictability proves unrelenting with increased pressures on the design industry.
Managing Director Chris McCue discusses his reflections about 2023 and aspirations for the 12 months ahead, and why taking stock is at the top of his list.
“I would say that 2023 ended more positively than how it began,” says Chris. “I remember sitting at my desk in November 2022 and feeling the beginnings of the economic slowdown that carried into the next year. This time around, I feel a sense of stability.” With many milestone projects across all sectors reaching completion this year, such as 116 Rokeby, Como Terraces, Brunswick Yard, and several bespoke residential or commercial ventures, the Carr team will enjoy the rewards of months and years of design practice.
No easy feat
Across the board, 2023 was not the easiest of years. For Chris, the biggest surprise was the latent impact of COVID-19 on the design industry being more pronounced than expected. “The rising construction costs and the lagging of sales rates have meant that projects have more risk and take a longer time to convert and start,” he explains. “There’s been so much uncertainty in the development market that projects can go on hold or don’t proceed. This means it is incredibly challenging to manage workflows. It’s somewhat heartening to know that others in the industry have faced similar pressures.”
But with this in mind, Carr has recalibrated to operate across different sectors with tenacity and cohesion. “We are committed to going forward in the future and creating amazing spaces for generations to come,” adds Chris.
Traversing the typologies
Our expertise in residential, commercial workplace and hospitality continues to be guided by an innate understanding of space, form, light and materiality. Last year, feasibility studies dominated most schedules and 2024 will see many of them kick off. “We’re starting to see builders or subcontractors reach out to us and ask about what’s on the horizon. Designers are normally the canaries in the coal mine, we see the impacts of change quickly, which means we have tried and tested strategies to share with our collaborators.”
There’s been an upswing across several new and long-standing clients who are investing in interstate projects. Property developments have been positive in Brisbane and Sydney, with several of our completed and current projects located there, and Melbourne has begun to increase activity too. “There’s a constant cycle and stream of projects that are working their way through design development, documentation, and construction. A new host of projects are also going through the planning process, which is great to see,” says Chris.
Chris says the team will consolidate and celebrate the success of projects completed in the next 12 months while working off the back of this with new opportunities.
For interiors, the residential and hospitality teams will be engaged in local and interstate projects that present unique endeavours. In the commercial interior scope, the team is focusing on asset revitalisation projects that elevate the tenant experience within established buildings, premium-grade workplace fit-outs and rescaling, and significant public realm spaces interstate. Architecturally it’s full steam ahead of large-scale commercial and residential buildings.
From a people and culture perspective, “We’re in the process of rejuvenating our team, with some adjustments in our existing structure and the exploration of new leaders who can step into senior roles or join our practice. This presents an interesting opportunity for us to welcome a new wave of talent, including recent graduates joining us full-time.”
Before we get into the bustle of the year ahead, Chris endorses a regular need for reflection and reset to achieve the best result for the client, team, and community. “Even after five decades, we have the aspirations to create amazing spaces, collaborate with interesting people and solve innovative design challenges. That’s always been our job.”
See more projects due to be completed this year.