5 minutes with… Dale O’Brien of Gray Puksand

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5 minutes with… Dale O’Brien of Gray Puksand

It’s official: Melbourne is about to become Australia’s undisputed fashion capital (sorry-not-sorry Sydney). Find out how as we get to know Dale, one of Gray Puksand’s new Senior Associates leading a project set to rock our sartorial scene.



BY Sandra Tan

October 20th, 2017


How and when did you figure out design was for you?

Well it actually started quite early in my childhood. I was always quite passionate about art, it was a bit of an outlet for me and it came naturally. Then at the age of 12 I took an interest in architecture – things that 12-year-olds don’t normally draw, like cornices and building details. When I was about 14, my father worked for a commercial furniture company, and upstairs was this young, dynamic interior design group. I used to go there on weekends and school holidays, and they would give me fun little projects to do. So even before I finished high school, I already knew what I wanted to do.

Let’s fast forward to today – can you share some of the key projects you’ve worked on at Gray Puksand?

I’ve been with Gray Puksand four years now, and taken on a Senior Associate role in the Melbourne office just recently. I’ve been involved with some great projects, including the Metro Trains head office and Shaw Contract’s Design Lab a couple years ago.

In terms of more recently, I’m looking at things with a commercial workspace focus and developing business in that area. We work with clients who place value on great design and we’ve had a good stream of projects in recent years, –including Victorian Legal Aid and Australia Post.

At the moment, I’m really excited to be project leader for the masterplan and refurbishment of 222 Exhibition Street. It’s an interesting site, on the junction of the theatre district and Chinatown, so we thought we could afford to be a little bit dramatic. We created an origami-like façade of white, gold and mirror panels to mark it as a kind of additional gateway to Chinatown. It’s only started to go up in the last couple weeks so it’s been great to see that happen, especially at such a prominent location.

“We are also currently in construction of a new tenant services facility and wellness centre at 101 Collins Street. Working closely with Arup and Glowing Structures, we’ve designed a space that will deliver unprecedented quality and luxury befitting this premium building.”

Sounds fabulous – we’ll keep our eyes peeled! What other major works are in the wings?

At the start of this year we were thrilled to pick up David Jones and Country Road Group as a client. With David Jones relocating their business from Sydney to Melbourne, it’s a great win for fashion in Victoria. It’s a bit of a coup. We call it the Home of Australian Icons, and that’s a design story that goes to the heart of what we’re doing.

It’s a very unusual brief in that you’ve got two fairly distinctive retail organisations co-locating, and within Country Road Group are a stable of brands that want to keep their individual identities. In a creative hub stacked over multiple floors, how do you get people collaborating across brands while maintaining autonomy and intellectual property? It poses some interesting challenges and with these, some unique opportunities.

This particular client is embedded in the design world – is there a sense that they engage with the design process differently?

In some ways, yes. But we have also learned to expect the unexpected. We did workshops to engage people across the business, and it taught us a few things about perhaps not making assumptions. We had some incredibly insightful engagement from people in the legal team, for instance, or even from people in HR who really believe in the business that they’re a part of. As for the in-house design teams, they might have an opinion on our decisions, but they can appreciate that we do what we do. We were given a lot of creative room.

How is the ‘Home of Australian Icons’ concept reflected within the design?

We made a huge effort to work with local creatives as well as brands that are up and coming, and perhaps slightly offbeat. Groups like Project 82, and designers like Tom Fereday and Adam Goodrum, for instance. It’s a large and dynamic project with a lot of parts to it, so it’s been very rewarding to be able to engage local suppliers, fabricators and manufacturers throughout.

As a senior designer, what compels you to do what you do?

The team here at GP have really enabled myself and others to drive some great design outcomes, and work with fantastic clients to produce interesting, dynamic work. Design might appear skin deep to some people, and sure, it’s a luxury we can afford ourselves in the first world, but I think that it’s one way we can positively influence people’s lives and actually offer enrichment.

Good design comes in many forms. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, or have a label attached to it – it’s about making things easier and making people happier. I feel if we can achieve those things, then I can die a happy man!


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