Techne has made a niche for itself designing some of the best hospitality hotspots in Melbourne. Director Nick Travers, who started the business with Justin Northrop, recounts the growth of the studio, with milestones seeming to come in five-year waves.
Techne began in 2001 when Northrop and Travers, then colleagues in a small commercial architecture studio, started working together on weekends and after hours. Their first big break was the Deanery, a wine bar and restaurant that they owned themselves, which garnered them critical and commercial success – enough to start their own studio. This was followed closely by Movida, which now offers some of the best Spanish food in Melbourne and often requires bookings months in advance.
After this initial success, the studio’s achievements can be mapped in five-year sections. In 2005, Techne snagged its first major client – Porsche – and has been working with them ever since. Five years later, they designed the Fran Hotel, which was awarded both nationally and internationally, and now, in the studio’s 15th year, it is working on its biggest project to date – the Garden State Hotel. “We were told it would take five years for our business to kick along and that’s what happened,” says Travers. “These things seem to happen in waves.”
While they began with two people, 15 years later and the studio is now 30 strong, with a fairly even split between architects and interior designers. “Justin and I are trained architects but developed strong interior design sensibilities from our early hospitality work,” explains Travers. For this reason, Techne has built the business on an incremental basis with an equal footing of architecture and interior design, and all of the departments work together in the same room. “We operate in a fully integrated manner, which encourages the cross-pollination of ideas and technical capabilities,” Travers continues. “We value the two aspects of the business with equal strength.”
As the success of the studio continues, there has been a noticeable change in the scale of the projects they are being asked to work on. “Companies are increasingly looking for medium-sized studios like us to apply our design experience on a much bigger scale, including precinct design,” says Travers. An increase in scale also often means more stakeholders and larger corporate clients, rather than just owner-operators.
Techne is still best known for its hospitality work, but is also working in residential, hotel and accommodation, as well as expanding horizons into workplace design. In terms of future market trends, the studio sees competition from Airbnb shaking up the hotel industry. “Hotel operators need to change their business model to focus on experience-driven design and this is an area where Techne is able to deliver those outcomes.”