In a world that is sometimes quick to favour the discipline of architecture over interior design, Scott Walker, head of interior design at HASSELL, is determined to dispute that belief.
“One aspect of our studio we are most proud of is that we are not an architectural practice with a few interior designers or landscape architects scattered throughout as a mechanism to tick the ‘we are a multidisciplinary design firm’ box,” explains Scott. “Our disciplines have strong voices within our culture. For example, we are one of the larger firms of architects and yet our managing director is an interior designer. Very few design firms in the world would give such a voice to often marginalised design disciplines.”
Originally studying architecture himself, Scott deferred after a couple of years to get some real world experience at a small architectural practice. Two years later, he returned to university, but this time with a clearer idea in his mind as to where he fit in the design world, beginning a degree in interior design at Melbourne’s RMIT.
He has worked at a range of practices, but has been at HASSELL for the last ten years. A respected international firm, Scott’s role as head of interior design has him oversee 15o designers located throughout Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK. As a result he travels extensively, something he marks as both the biggest benefit and the biggest challenge of his job.
“Distance and the sheer amount of work continue to be a juggle,” says Scott. “Whilst the internet makes us all more connected, there’s nothing better than working face to face, so travel is fundamental to being international. Australia is too far away. Having said that, the challenge is also the benefit. Travel in itself, visiting international cities is an obvious benefit, which fuels inspiration.”
Working across all sectors: residential, hospitality and commercial, Scott’s primary role is focusing on improving the design quality of HASSELL’s projects and improving the processes amongst their teams: “Put simply, my role is to make everything we design, excellent.” While he is based in Melbourne, he is involved in all the overseas projects and is particularly enjoying working on a new residential build in Singapore. “This project involves our architecture and landscape architecture teams,” explains Scott. “Having the opportunity to develop interiors from the project’s inception and then integrate the design with our landscape team means that we are constantly working beyond the bounds of what people normally consider interiors.”
Always favouring his current job: “My favourite projects tend to be the ones l’m working on now. I’m not sentimental!” He has to confess that the Flinders Street Station competition, which last year saw HASSELL’s design be unanimously selected as the winner for the redevelopment of the historic site, was a very exciting project to be a part of. “Flinders Street Station is so central to Melbourne’s psyche and the development of the site and the station itself would place Melbourne ‘out there’ in international terms. Flinders Street could do for Melbourne what the Guggenheim did for Bilbao and at the same time be instrumental in helping fix our public transport issues.”
While the project is yet to get the go-ahead to be built, the win is certainly one of HASSELL’s biggest achievements (alongside the more than 850 awards they have won!), especially for a firm that refuses to prioritise profit. “Through the GFC and the general issues to do with the running of a largish practice, we have remained committed to designing a range of projects at various scales,” explains Scott. “We have not let the commercial aspect of running a business overtake the idea that it is design excellence that will drive success, not large profits.”