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5 Mins With HASSELL’s Glenn Scott

The new ICC is a jewel in the redesigned face of modern Sydney. We sat down Glenn Scott, Principal at international design practice HASSELL and Joint ICC Architecture Director, to understand more about the project and what makes him tick.



BY Andrew McDonald

January 25th, 2017


Spread over 250,000 square metres the ICC Sydney at Darling Harbour is set to become a benchmark of exhibition, entertainment and convention venues worldwide, and serves as an important city-shaping project in the heart of Sydney.

Joint venture partners HASSELL + Populous worked together to design the project, comprising convention, exhibition and entertainment venues. We were lucky enough to chat with HASSELL Principal Glenn Scott…

What was the moment you knew you wanted to work in the design industry?

I was fortunate enough to travel widely when I was younger with my parents and I became intrigued by the history of architecture and particularly a buildings ability to stand for such a long time embodying the thoughts and decisions of the original designers and craftsperson which could be experienced long into the future. The idea of being an architect and being a part of this tradition and history came to me when I was around 14 years of age.

What interests you most about this particular field of design?

It is the opportunity to positively affect as many people as possible and for a long period of time. The decisions one makes as an architect have wide and long ranging implications so one needs to consider carefully each and every choice we make.

What has your experience with convention centre/large scale design been?

I have been fortunate to work on a wide range of large scale projects over my career to date, far exceeding my expectations. These have included sports venues for the Sydney Olympic Games, Beijing Olympic Games and the bid on behalf of Istanbul for the 2020 Olympic Games. I also had the opportunity to work on the new massive Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo including the Master-plan for the Giza Pyramids site, which was like a dream to be part of the history of buildings dating back more than 4000 years. Most recently has been ICC Sydney (in joint venture partnership with Populous and on behalf of the NSW Government) which is a true ‘once in a generation’ city shaping project that I am immensely proud of and fortunate to be part of.

What’s the most unusual/interesting thing about the way you work?

I prescribe to the ‘keep it simple’ mantra. I like planning and forms to be clean, clear and robust – the design idea needs to be able to be represented in a clear simple diagram. Also, the materials and colours of the design need to reflect this mantra as well – I call it the ‘pallet of 3’ in which I consistently only use three key or core materials, e.g. concrete, steel and timber. ICC Sydney, for example, follows this mantra; the International Convention Centre Sydney is concrete, glass, and porcelain; the ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre is concrete, steel, and timber; and ICC Sydney Theatre is concrete, glass, and mesh.

Which items in the workplace can you not live without?

Ink pens and ‘yellow trace’ for sketching and distilling the design diagrams, along with my lap-top with digital tools including CAD and software like Photoshop for exploring design options and studies.

What have been your favourite three products of all time?

  1. Egg Chair by Arne Jacobson
  2. iittala Vase by Alvar Allto
  3. 300SL ‘Gullwing’ by Mercedes Benz

What or who are your top influences?

It is hard to simplify this down into a few key people or items only, I have been interested, inspired and intrigued by different aspects of different peoples work or thinking over time, which I consider and assimilate into my own thinking. If I were to narrow it down I would say I am predominantly influenced by the key design or art objects and movements of the 20th century modern period. This period saw an upheaval in so much that had gone before and everything was questioned, analysed and re-thought – our world today is still very much a legacy of that unique period of exploration. In a contemporary setting, I am influenced by those whose own approach also likely comes from this period as well.

Favourite material?

Timber – especially when it is pushed to do extraordinary things. We are now just really starting to understand and embrace what timber can really achieve beyond steel and concrete when explored and considered in depth. I undertook a study project recently at HASSELL in which we demonstrated that it was possible to develop large stadium roofs in timber. It is one of the few only truly sustainable building materials we can use with minimal manufacturing techniques, unlike others that require large scale energy intensive mining and processing to realise. ICC Sydney utilises timber in a variety of beautiful ways, externally and internally, to provide warmth and balance to the large buildings and spaces.

Favourite local landmark/building?

Maybe too obvious, but the Sydney Opera House – it is an extraordinary testament to the vision and effort of not just its architect but an entire team of designers, engineers and builders to see it through. It embodies almost everything I believe as designer; it is clear and simple, it can be reduced to a simple diagram, and it has a ‘pallet of 3’ – externally facing concrete, red granite pre-cast panels, and white ceramic tiles. Internally this restrained pallet continues where it becomes concrete, red granite precast and timber.

Favourite international landmark/building?

Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China – they are extraordinary feats of not only human engineering but also capacity and endurance. It defies my comprehension how they were achieved over such long periods with only the technology of the time. For me it demonstrates just what persistence, determination and resilience can achieve.

What would you say is your biggest career moment?

The remaking of Darling Harbour with ICC Sydney (in joint venture partnership with Populous on behalf of the NSW State Government). This was truly a once in a generation, or maybe even a once in a career opportunity to change such an amazing city at this scale. It was a humbling and scary project being so public and important, and it was an honour to have been such a key part of it.

What are you main concerns for the design industry in the coming decade?

I don’t have concerns, I think the design industry sits at a very unique and fortunate position at this point in time locally and globally – we just need to ensure we grab hold of it and remain agile in a fast moving and changing world where we can now work almost anywhere easily– it is not a concern, it is exciting. Other industries and sectors are also turning to the design industry for our particular way of viewing the world and problem solving, the corporate world now explores ‘design thinking’ as a way of tackling their challenges.

Who is your dream person or team to collaborate with?

If he were still alive it would have been interesting to collaborate with Steve Jobs as he saw quality design as a key aspect of making technology ‘desirable’ well before others, today I think it would be interesting to collaborate with Elon Musk. He is willing to push boundaries where other mainstream operators have been slow to react, especially the car industry. Ensuring quality of design makes the cars highly desirable and is a big part of the success of Tesla. His push and innovation along with quality design in this space has forced the other players to respond and we now sit on the edge of the new electric car industry, along with autonomous cars, and all only within a few short years.


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