Just over five years ago, Sydney architect Mark Wilson was approached by Matthew Goodare and Michael Odd of Danette Construction and Management, asking for his contribution to a series of upcoming projects in the Sydney Metropolitan Area. The aim was to offer a design and construct option to their clients, which would operate under a new Architecture wing within the organisation: Danette Architecture. “This was an ideal solution for a number of their clients,” says Wilson. “The time consuming and complicated process of engaging consultants to undertake design documentation and planning approval processes – followed by lengthy negotiation with builders – could be reduced to one simple point of contact throughout the project, from initial feasibility to the unveiling of the end product.
Like many start-up architectural practices, the initial projects designed on the drawing boards were residential alterations and additions in the local Sydney area. Projects ranging from bathroom renovation designs to art studios and rear additions were completed for family and friends. Gradually, through strategic marketing and referrals from both the architectural and construction teams within the company, Danette Architecture has grown to specialise in a wide range of architectural fields, including residential, educational, commercial, health and Industrial design. Along with their growth, Danette and Danette Architecture recently opened their showcase offices in Artarmon.
In a short amount of time, Danette Architecture has also been able to expand business ventures beyond the border of New South Wales. As nominated architect, Wilson is also currently registered in Western Australia and Victoria, with hopes to gain certification in Queensland and the North Territory by the end of this year. Collaborations with other contractors, project managers and developers allow the company to work with a wide range of clients and, in turn, hone their creative skills – something Wilson believes is essential to keeping a business active and successful. He practices this expertise daily by determining the feasibility of an initial project brief, developing these initial designs and seeking their approval with authorities, modifying set plans to accommodate specific details, and establishing building contracts to assist clients in the construction process.
“It is crucial not to pigeon hole yourself into one architectural field,” he says. “If, for some reason, the work slows down in that particular sector, then it is extremely important to be able to have experience in other fields where work may be flourishing. After all, variety is the spice of life! The more varied the projects within the office, the more challenging and vibrant our designs become. It is crucial to maintain an exciting energy within any design studio, encouraging creativity which can be transformed onto the paper through whichever medium the author is using – from pencil and yellow tracing paper to the latest 3-D software.”
The use of advanced software is a practice that Wilson and his associates at Danette Architecture have more recently implemented. Two years ago, the company abandoned the traditional documenting and drafting format for a much newer computer aided design (CAD) process. While Wilson acknowledged the switch as “a jump into the unknown,” the accuracy and flexibility of this new system cannot be compromised. “With every feasibility design, we are able to produce 3-D images for our clients to understand the scheme with greater detail – especially the sizes of spaces and overall composition. As part of each design, Danette Architecture provides a 3-D model which our clients can open on their own computers or smart phones at their offices or at home. We have found that is it easier to coordinate the structural and services consultants’ documentation using 3D modelling. We can show the consultants with 3-D images where clashes may occur. We can also produce 3-D images for the builder to understand how we detailed the building. We even ask for all our site surveys in 3-D, so we can establish the properties of the site at an early stage, and portray these to our consultant team.”
Danette Architecture also has access to progressive technology that aids in the overall contribution towards sustainability for each project – an effort they work carefully and diligently towards in order to achieve the best results possible. “We spend time at every site to understand many key aspects such as climate, solar aspect, topography, local character, and local transportation services, to name just a few,” says Wilson. “Along with the use of Energy Software tools such as BASIX and Nathers, we are able to harness local environmental conditions into our projects ranging from residential to apartments to commercial design to assist us to produce more sustainable designs”.
It is important to our clients that we can suggest certain energy saving systems such as solar heating, or particular types of building materials such as thermally and acoustically rated cladding systems early on within the design process; these can then be incorporated into the projects at the outset, so that clients can make an informed choice on their physical and aesthetic benefits, the associated costs, their benefits, and the ongoing savings over the longevity of the building’s life.”
With their growing success, Danette Architecture is looking to increase staffing of draftsmen and architects to reflect the influx of new clients. The ultimate goal is to uphold their philosophy to ensure clarity in communication with clients, suppliers and staff, and maintain desired levels of productivity for incoming projects. “There is nothing better than meeting up with our clients, either at their new home or in their new work environments and hearing their excitement and pleasure that our designs have brought to them. When you have a happy client, this will either bring returning business and their referrals to other potential clients. We also value all types of feedback. It is also very important to listen to what our clients say, so we can consider this in the future and improve our services.
If you create excellent relationships with your staff, suppliers and clients, then you can concentrate on the design aspect of architecture. On many of our projects, we value supplier and manufacturers, as they provide us with their expertise to make informed decisions about the materials we want to use within our designs. On occasions we may be thinking of a particular material; however, the manufacturer may suggest a more appropriate or different option for consideration. We value the expertise that every architectural representative we talk to provides, so we can translate this information into our designs and inform our clients on the selections we are specifying. We are always looking for new materials and products to use in our designs to be more creative.”
While Wilson sees the upcoming election and recent council amalgamation in New South Wales having an adverse affect on the industry, he remains positive in his endeavours for the present and future. Running an architectural practice has been a main source of inspiration for him, and has heeded a wide variety of outstanding projects; one of which – a Scandinavian home design in Coral Crescent, Avalon – was featured on “Before & After” on Channel 7Two. Going forward, he aims to hone his skills with the company’s new 3-D software, and develop the practice to better serve the Health & Audio Clinic and Laboratory Design Sector of the industry.