Collaboration in the Top End28 March 2019
Darwin-based practice Jackman Gooden Architects prides itself on its success in collaborative projects, aligning with other local and interstate architects, specialist consultants and design-oriented building contractors.
Directors of JGA (NT) Colin Browne and Steven Huntingford.
Jackman Gooden Architects (NT) Pty Ltd was created in March 1985 as an affiliate office of Jackman Gooden Scott and Swan (Adelaide) and Steven Huntingford relocated to Darwin from the Adelaide office in May 1985 to assist in various projects then being carried out in collaboration with local practice Vin Keneally and Associates.
In June 1985, JGA (NT) then purchased the Darwin architectural practice of Vin Keneally and Associates, and in 1992 Steven Huntingford and Colin Browne became directors of JGA (NT), and remain co-owners of the practice to this day.
JGA (NT) is a well-credentialled and respected practice with an extensive range of project experience across Government and private clientele, and encompassing residential, recreational, educational, health, commercial, retail and institutional, public and interior architecture, basically anything people are willing to trust us with.
Resources infrastructure within the practice is predominantly design based, with increased documentation capacity available through regular collaboration with local specialist documentation companies.
The directors of JGA (NT), Steven Huntingford and Colin Browne, have shared over 60 years’ experience in Darwin and the Top End and have developed a thorough professional awareness of environmental factors conducive to appropriate design in the Northern Territory.
In our tropical Top End, the basic tenets of shelter, shade and passive cooling are integral in appropriate, efficient and functional design. They should be applied not only to smaller-scale residential but also larger-scale commercial, recreational and institutional projects. In all projects, flexibility of use, consideration to shading and cooling options and a common-sense approach to orientation, planning and the use of materials can produce high-quality, sustainable design that meets the requirements of a client’s functional brief while adding value through enhanced living, recreational or working environments.
The Palliative Care Unit at Royal Darwin Hospital.
JGA (NT) has won the Tracy Award for the Best Project of the Year in the NT Architecture Awards on three occasions: Jingili Kindergarten (2002), the Palliative Care Facility at Royal Darwin Hospital (2006) and for the Darwin Football (Soccer) Stadium (2008).
In 2009, JGA (NT) designed One30 Esplanade, 144 apartments on the corner of Daly Street and The Esplanade, which is still recognised today (by JGA and friends) as Darwin’s best high-rise residential.
JGA has consistently maintained a small office of five to six professionals and prides itself on its success in working jointly with others. The practice has enjoyed many collaborative projects, aligning with other local and interstate architects, specialist consultants and design-oriented building contractors, including:
- With Stephenson and Turner to design the Marrara Football Stadium (TIO Stadium; 1995);
- With Cheesman Architects (Adelaide) to design the Alan Walker Cancer Centre at Royal Darwin Hospital (2009);
- With local architects Build Up Design and Tonkin Architects to design the Roseberry Primary and Middle Schools (2010);
- With Hassell (Perth) to design Stage 1 of the Mackillop Catholic College in Palmerston (2012). JGA (NT) continued to design Stages 2, 3 and 4 of the College;
- With local architect Tonkin Architects to design Taminmin College STEM Centre (2016);
- With local architect Hully Liveris and Hayball Architects (Melbourne) to design the Darwin High School STEAM Centre (2017), which is currently under construction; and
- With Tonkin Architects to design the new Palmerston Police Station (2017), which is currently under construction.
The Darwin Football (Soccer) Stadium.
Lessons learned and Business
Over the past 27 years of directing JGA (NT), we have learned many pivotal and seemingly obvious lessons, including never eat the creamy garlic prawns the night before an early meeting, and above all to maintain a consistently high level of professionalism and client service across all phases of project delivery.
While working collaboratively and jointly with other practices has allowed us to maintain a small core of employees, we have also learned to only collaborate with other practices that share a similar and compatible professional ethic and approach to project delivery.
Regular collaboration with other like-minded practices for larger or more complex projects requiring specialist expertise, and the invention of the aeroplane, has meant that the remoteness of the Northern Territory has not been an obstacle. In fact, our proximity to South East Asia is a potential source of projects, although we have not chosen to pursue this market to date.
It is no secret (or at least it won’t be after this) that the biggest challenge currently facing JGA (NT), and no doubt our peers, is the stagnant NT economic climate and its impact on the construction industry professions, including fee bidding, tighter design, documentation and construction timeframes, and the (almost inevitable) resultant battle to maintain quality of service delivery and the built product.
The NT is currently between ‘anchor’ projects with the Inpex LNG project nearing completion and Defence spending slowly ramping up to hopefully help fill the void and provide opportunities for local consultants and contractors.
Risk shedding by private, institutional and government clients alike through onerous conditions of engagement and alternative modes of project delivery is also a challenge to design professionals and contractors alike. We regularly annoy our Professional Indemnity insurers with reviews of conditions of engagement that are put before us and we have learned that ‘saying no’ to some potential clients is not necessarily a bad thing, and can indeed be cathartic on occasions.
The legal profession needs to accept some responsibility in this dangerous trend, by often taking otherwise standard conditions and contracts and inserting special conditions on behalf of their clients which are potential grenades and which appear to have been drafted by their work experience students without any oversight.
In addition to the above challenges, the advent of CAD/Revit/BIM (call it what you like) is no doubt a useful tool when used effectively, but has not delivered more time to lie on the couch and watch the footy, as was promised, since many clients see these technological developments as a means to deliver more projects more quickly, since the expectation is that all we have to do is ‘push a few buttons’.
JGA (NT) has relied on marketing our practice through our service delivery and ‘word of mouth’, and we have never developed a website. We acknowledge this is possibly an archaic (and possibly lazy) approach but it has worked for us over the years.
In late 2016, having run the practice for some 25 years together, Steven and Colin decided to ‘float’ the idea of selling the practice. Two parties registered interest in the practice and JGA (NT) spent some six months in negotiation with a national architectural/engineering practice, which wanted an architectural cell to carry out future Defence work. Despite negotiations, no final agreement was reached, and so for the short-term future (while kids are still going through uni) it will be ‘business as usual’ for JGA (NT), and our ambition is to only take on fulfilling projects for clients who understand and appreciate the value of good design and quality service outcomes.
This approach informs my one piece of advice for those starting out . . . Architecture can be a very rewarding profession but, wherever humanly possible, choose your clients and your projects well, and remember no vigorous exercise before bedtime.
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