A professional resource for the design curious

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

“The prospect is bright” for Denton Corker Marshall on its 50th anniversary

A firm that plays the “occasional ratbag to their own rule making”, Denton Corker Marshall has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Explore the rules and ratbags that make this Australian-founded architectural practice truly exceptional.

“The prospect is bright” for Denton Corker Marshall on its 50th anniversary

Stonehenge Exhibition and Visitors Centre, UK, photography by James Davies.

In 2023 Denton Corker Marshall celebrates its 50th year of transformative and thought-provoking design. The impressive milestone was celebrated at the Melbourne Museum, one of the firm’s most notable civic projects, on Thursday 16 February, 2023.

Founded in 1972 by John Denton, Bill Corker and Barrie Marshall, the Melbourne-based practice gained early prominence in 1976, after winning the design competition for the Melbourne City Square with an ultramodern scheme of contemporary 1970s urbanism.

Australian Pavilion, Venice, photography by John Gollings.

Ground-breaking designs

Further ground-breaking designs followed with the 1981 joint venture project for 1 Collins Street, notable as the first modern city development in which the heritage frontages were preserved to allow a new high-rise construction behind, and in 1992, the accomplished development of the site of Australia’s First Government House with Governors Phillip and Macquarie Towers and the Museum of Sydney.

The firm’s output and trajectory continued uninterrupted in the decades that followed and garnered global acclaim with international projects such as the Australian Embassies in Tokyo, Beijing and Jakarta. In Europe, the practice won the international design competitions for Stonehenge Exhibition and Visitor Centre and the highly awarded Manchester Civil Justice Centre.

In 2011, the practice won the competition to design the first 21st century pavilion to be constructed in the Giardini della Biennale, Venice – the Australian Pavilion – representing an ambitious new chapter for the representation of Australian art and architecture internationally.

View Hill House and Vineyard, Victoria, photography by Tim Griffith.

Significant recognition

Recently, the practice received awards for Bridge of Remembrance, Hobart and Shepparton Art Museum, the first 6 Star Green Star art museum in Australia. In 2022, the practice won the design competition for the Sydney Biomedical Accelerator, a project representing the largest ever capital investment in biomedical research in NSW.

At the same time, the practice is successfully undertaking several large projects located in China for the increasingly sophisticated private university sector.

In 1996, at a relatively early career stage, the practice was awarded Australia’s highest architectural honour, the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, in recognition of the high quality of work produced in a relatively short period: very tall buildings driven by engineering solutions, monumental public buildings, art galleries, offices, museums and elegant urban plazas. Today, Denton Corker Marshall is the recipients of 75+ AIA State Awards and 30+ Significant AIA National and International Awards.

Bridge of Remembrance, Hobart, photography by John Gollings.

Investigating the functional and the sculptural

Formally, the practice investigates the functional and sculptural possibilities of architectural and urban design, resulting in landmarks that consolidate the intrinsic aspects of the city’s visual character and urban morphology, and respond materially and formally to the multiple scales of the city through an abstracted elemental language.

Fundamental experiments with colour, surface, scale and form, and the way architecture is inhabited contributes to the distinctive architectural language for which Denton Corker Marshall is critically acclaimed.

Related: DCM on how privately owned public space can transform our cities

Peter G Rowe, former Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design, stated in his essay entitled Rule playing and the ratbag element: “Architects often become pigeon-holed as being from particular schools, or following specific styles, or of being individualist to the point of being barely understood at all. On both counts of design principles and conformance (or not) to orthodox design thinking, the firm of Denton Corker Marshall consistently offers well-articulated concepts of modern architecture in which they play the occasional ratbag to their own rule making. (‘Ratbag’ here conveying its colloquial sense of eccentric or nonconforming behaviour).”

Shepparton Art Museum, Victoria, photography by Tim Griffith.

International expansion

Following the design of the Australian Embassies in Tokyo and Beijing, the practice was at the vanguard of an early engagement with Asia, building over 40,000 apartments in the first decade of 2000. More recently, the 2013 design for Asia Square twin towers and City Room in Singapore became a benchmark of design excellence used by the Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore for future downtown developments.

Reflecting the extent of international engagements, the practice has operated offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, London, Manchester and Warsaw in addition to Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.

Manchester Civil Justice Centre, UK, photography by Tim Griffith.

Denton Corker Marshall, today

Since the late 1990s, the practice has been headquartered in Melbourne, supported by offices in London, Manchester and Jakarta.

The Melbourne leadership team comprises John Denton, Adrian FitzGerald, Neil Bourne, Wojciech Pluta, Greg Gong and Sonja Syre, representing over 4 decades of continuity within the practice. The London office is headed by Stephen Quinlan and John Rintoul, with the Manchester office headed by Irwin Lopez. In Jakarta, the office is led by Budiman Hendropurnomo.

The current organisation, with offices in Melbourne, London, Manchester and Jakarta, is supported by a highly accomplished team of associates.

John Denton, founding director, states: “It is gratifying to be recognised for the enduring contribution our practice has made to the built environment in Australia and internationally. I see the prospect for Denton Corker Marshall as very bright. The practice is underpinned by a bank of knowledge and wealth of good design practices that will position it to achieve design excellence well into the future.”

Denton Corker Marshall’s enduring contribution to the built environment with award-winning and exceptional design in Australia and overseas continues to shape the construction of an Australian architectural identity at home and abroad.

Denton Corker Marshall

We think you might like this story about INDE.Awards Luminary, Budiman Hendropurnomo of Denton Corker Marshall, Jakarta.

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed