ThomsonAdsett's Chris Shaw on the future

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ThomsonAdsett’s Chris Shaw on work, philosophy and the future

Technology and a globalised world are changing the face of architecture. ThomsonAdsett’s Chris Shaw sits down to discuss these changes, his work and the future

BY Tess Ritchie

May 21st, 2015

Name: Chris Straw
Firm: ThomsonAdsett
Role: Group Managing Director and Partner

Where are you based?

Thomson Adsett operates from three regions in the world: Australia, South Pacific and Asia. Our studios in Australia are in Cairns, Rockhampton, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Our South Pacific Region is serviced via our Cairns studio as well as a studio in Jakarta. We have Asian studios in Hong Kong, Wuhan and Shanghai.

Woolworths Meadowbrook Shopping Centre, Logan

Woolworths Meadowbrook Shopping Centre, Logan

How would you describe your practise in a few words?

Our practice is specialist group focussing on several market sectors including Seniors Living (Retirement Living and aged care), Health (hospital design), Education (primary, secondary and tertiary), Retail (providing solutions for Australia’s major retailers), Resorts & Hotels and Office Accommodation.

What sets your practise apart?

-Our specialist focus on a range of sectors.
-Our focus on developing holistic solution.
-The vertical integration of the company eg: continued education and development of future models for seniors living, including SAGE (Studying and Advancing Global Eldercare), which offers innovative study tours to the aged care and retirement living industries; and working with Borderless Healthcare Group in pioneering new models of smart home design technologies.
-Development of a one office approach throughout the practice

St Paul’s Bardon Residential Aged Care Apartments, Brisbane

St Paul’s Bardon Residential Aged Care Apartments, Brisbane

Deakin University Cube, Geelong

Deakin University Cube, Geelong

Has your firm developed a style or philosophy over the years? How would you describe this?

Our style has emanated from several key drivers including a strong belief in servicing our client coupled with specialist expertise that understands our clients and their sectors business drivers with a view on global trends. We have an understanding that we need to work collaboratively with allied professionals to provide a total solution; providing outstanding and innovative built solutions is what we do. Our corporate vision is “Collaborative Holistic Solutions”

What do you believe to be the main forces and challenges for the practice of architecture? What do you think they will be in the future?

Some of the key disruptors to the industry are technology and globalisation. This, together with a competitive marketplace, is affecting the price of services. Technology advances from both a connectivity and production perspective is allowing drawing production to be undertaken remotely. The future will still be bright for the small, nimble, specialist practices who will work with either larger groups or as a client’s representative on project specific assignment; the focus will be collaboration and specialisation. Larger practices will survive and grow throughout the planet, while the medium sized practice will need to adjust to this new paradigm and become far more nimble in adjusting to a quickly changing world marketplace.

Loreto College Coorparoo, Brisbane

Loreto College Coorparoo, Brisbane

Loreto College Coorparoo, Brisbane

Loreto College Coorparoo, Brisbane

In what ways have you seen the profession of architecture change since you entered the industry? Are these good or bad?

Key changes are the use of technology and a global focus. Previously all drawing and concepts were produced by hand and the 3 dimensional communication to clients was either by a model or your skill to produce a rendering or artistic sketch. Tools today make it far quicker to develop and communicate a concept and also develop the concept into a set of drawings for construction. In my opinion, it is still good for architects to be able to think and communicate by hand drawing as well using all the new great tools. The global practice and the ability for architects to work across continents have also become more prevalent. The use of better communication tools now also means that remote offices can collaborate more effectively and can work on the same project. I am not sure that the innate nature of an architect has changed though, an enquiring mind, passionate and often with a love of red wine.

Griffith University Library and Learning Commons, Gold Coast

Griffith University Library and Learning Commons, Gold Coast

What are your plans for the future?

We are adjusting to a changing future as described above. This has meant over 12 months of intense work with our partners naval gazing and working with all our staff developing our preferred future. Our revised corporate structure has taken an amoebic structure which is a reference to it being a living thriving organism. At its heart is the premise that we are totally connected group with the ability to respond quickly to its environment. As the second largest practice in the world in Seniors Living, we are conscious of maintaining a focus on this and our health work in the Asian marketplace. The expertise in our educational and retail areas will also be taken into the Asian marketplace. Our South Pacific Region will continue to grow and this pioneering energy will continue to look for new market opportunities. We are committed to continuing to raise the quality of design within the practice and have embedded a concept of regular studio design reviews supplemented by the development of key ThomsonAdsett design principles which are used as a filter for each project. In essence, we are adjusting the company so it can be responsive to a rapidly changing future with the tools to adjust and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Bondi Penthouse

Bondi Penthouse

Brisbane Airport Service Centre

Brisbane Airport Service Centre

Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring architects or designers?

Architecture will always be a profession where you can gain immense personal satisfaction. Clients will always want innovative solutions so specialisation and design excellence will always have a place. The days of the generalist architect are numbered.

Photography Credits:

The Port Office, Port of Brisbane Corporation – Photograph by Scott Burrows (Aperture)

Woolworths Meadowbrook Shopping Centre – Image Courtesy ADCO

St Paul’s Bardon Residential Aged Care Apartments – Photograph by Alicia Taylor

Deakin University Cube, Geelong – Photograph by Alicia Taylor

Loreto College Coorparoo – Photographs by Alicia Taylor

Griffith University Library and Learning Commons – Photograph by Angus Martin

Bondi Penthouse – Photograph by Tom Ferguson

Brisbane Aiport Service Centre – Photograph by Alicia Taylor


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