Ryder Alliance Exchange

6 September 2017

Fran Tafi, architect at Ryder, and Nick Dean, designer at i2C, discuss recent secondments through the Ryder Alliance

Team culture is a dominating part of the Alliance, something we both found very quickly upon meeting our new colleagues.  Entering such a friendly and collaborative environment made transitions on both sides of the globe easier and created a platform for two unforgettable months.

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Nick Dean - working in Gareth Callen’s team

Right from the beginning I felt a part of the team in Liverpool.  The welcoming approach was much the same as back home at i2C and I know I’ve made some lifelong friendships.  I can safely say my experience has more than exceeded my expectations.  The first day consisted of a lunch outing and a tour of a few local bars and pubs close to the office, so I felt right at home.

I was fortunate enough to work on an array of projects while at Ryder, all of which were at different stages in the design process so I gained a rounded understanding on how the practice tackles new schemes through to construction.  Some of the projects included a concept package for a 15 storey mixed use scheme, detailed drawings for an office refurbishment in Manchester, along with modelling and documentation of the landscaping features for a masterplan.

One thing that stood out to me as soon as I walked into the office was the display of physical models.  It was amazing to see and I truly got a sense of the spatial arrangement of a proposal and how the buildings interact with one another on site.  It also shows a lot of passion and care for a design proposal.  Designing for flexibility plays a key role in Ryder’s work.

I fell in love with the UK’s historical architecture and the evident rich history, something we aren’t exposed to in such a young country like Australia.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but Liverpool has 2,500 listed buildings of which 27 are Grade I and 85 are Grade II listed.

I could never narrow my experience down to just one highlight.  I was lucky enough to begin the exchange as Ryder held their 2017 Blueprint which brought all teams together in Newcastle.  The timing was perfect, I was able to learn about Ryder’s culture and origins, but it also provided me with an opportunity to get to know the team outside an office environment.

A huge part of my time overseas was spent travelling, determined to see as much of the UK as I could in the limited time I had.  A stand out moment was a trip to north Wales to climb Mount Snowdon with Sam, Dan and Andy from the office.  I was warned that the weather is usually very unpredictable in Snowdonia so we all packed extra layers and waterproof jackets – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, in fact we should packed sunscreen because we were scorched for the next week.

Living on my own for the first time was tough, but it’s an opportunity I am overwhelmingly glad not to have passed up.  To anyone considering a similar opportunity, I would say don’t hesitate and go for it.  For me the exchange wasn’t only about professional growth but personal development too, it took me out of my comfort zone and broadened my perspective massively.

Fran Tafi – working in the i2C Melbourne team

You can’t beat experiencing a new country through the eyes of its natives.  Melbourne is a melting pot of cultures easily told by its architecture, accents, food and people.

Farewell Francesca Lunch pm

The biggest challenge was to get the most out of this brief experience in two months.  Not enough time to be confident with new modelling programs, nor follow the depth of a project but enough to surround myself with new issues, questions and views that will never leave my professional life.  I am incredibly grateful for the patience and passion of my colleagues who introduced me to a new world surpassing all my expectations.

I worked on a vast range of projects while at i2C, many of these centred around urban design and retail expertise, each causing me to constantly question the normality.  What is a shopping centre?  Could it be given another name?  What do people want from their shopping experience?  How can architecture enhance this experience?  Can consumer reality be planned and designed in a sustainable way?  Whether a precinct, hub or town centre, I have been fuelled with new subject matter.

Honestly speaking, having never had a great interest in shopping nor shopping centres, a full immersion in a retail reality was a big test.  Curiosity is my attitude toward life though and, once again, allowed me to get closer and appreciate a world new to me.  Joking aside, the real challenge was not falling into Melbourne’s coffee temptations (I failed shamelessly).

To leave the mouse and handle the pen again has been quite the revelation.  Having the possibility of endless communication through hand sketches is a privilege.  I have gained a greater appreciation for the importance of design workshops and communications – a great chance to be updated with the jobs and activities of those in surrounding offices, it keeps the passion for your job alive and engages you with your colleagues in ways you never expected.

From an interiors perspective, I was incredibly impressed by the craftsmanship of the wonderful pieces of furniture in hidden shops around Collingwood and by buildings where wood is the protagonist.  My previous infatuation with timber is now love. 

Much like Nick, I’m unable to narrow down my highlights but I can give you some snapshots of unforgettable moments thanks to the generosity of those I met during my exchange.

Endless walks without destination allowing the town to reveal its hidden gems, Tassie and its beautiful colours, pretending to understand a footy match, the night market, meditation in the office, working on Revit with people jamming with their guitars, the Carbonara challenge, kick starting the morning with a gin tasting, starfish, penguins and dolphins with the city skyline as background and a passer by wishing me peace and love.

We would both like to thank i2C and Ryder again for this fantastic opportunity.


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