Melbourne Skyline

Following a recent secondment with Ryder Alliance, Michael Anderson, design assistant at Ryder Architecture discusses life down under.

After expressing my interest to our managing partner Mark Thompson to broaden my horizons and complete a summer secondment, I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to spend three months overseas with our Australian Ryder Alliance partner, i2C Design and Management.

Following a hectic few weeks terminating my rental agreement, putting my belongings in storage, handing in my final portfolio at university for the year and most of all, having to break the news to my girlfriend, I was ready to go.

I was greeted at Sydney airport by a welcoming accent – Laura, the extremely kind Glaswegian who offered to pick me up and take me to my accommodation at 04:00 in the morning.

The staff at i2C were extremely welcoming and I immediately felt part of the team - the office beer tap helped a lot!  I had no previous experience designing for the retail sector but I was soon to discover the ins and outs.

The following two weeks passed quickly and the majority of my time was spent working on Top Ryde shopping centre - a large existing shopping centre undergoing refurbishment and extension.  My main task was setting out tenancy plans, surveying existing services and coordinating new ones then transferring the information onto drawings.  It was great to get on site to meet the site team and put my surveying skills to the test.

Surreally, I found myself in a city which most people associate with sunbathing and golden beaches, caught up in one of the worst storms the East Coast of Australia had seen in 20 years, the Central Business District was deserted and the streets were a sea of broken umbrellas.

The remainder of my time was to be spent in i2C’s Melbourne office.  I had previously spent two years on a working holiday in Melbourne, so it was also great to catch up with some old friends who decided never to come home!

I was thrown straight in the thick of things, situated in the interiors team working under Scott Palmer the interiors manager.  The majority of my time in Melbourne was spent working on Priceline Pharmacy, Australia’s fastest expanding pharmacy store.  My task was to complete a roll out of 10 stores over 10 weeks, producing construction documentation to each store including demolition, fit out, coordination of MEP and finishes information.  One thing I certainly learnt about retail is that plans can change dramatically in a short period of time due to client and centre demands with many negotiations taking place.  Clients would regularly come back requesting different shop front designs to meet centre regulations, finishes and fit outs which would require a quick turnaround.

I was lucky enough to be taken on two “Archi Walks” by one of my good friends Hagen Sykes and the interiors team which produced a great topic of discussion and opinion in the team.

We even managed to do a bit of research on Melbourne’s top secret bars - the favourite being State of Grace, which by pulling a book on a discreet bookshelf opens a fake sliding wall leading into Fall from Grace downstairs.  We visited the famous Melbourne cricket ground to watch an AFL game - I had no idea what was going on but the experience of being in a stadium of that size was breath taking.

Overall I found the mind set of the two businesses very similar, a testimony of why the Alliance works so well.  There are things I have taken from the secondment that will stay with me for the rest of my career.  It has been a great honour to represent Ryder down under and I suggest anyone who has the opportunity grasps it.

Thank you to Radek, Ali and Thu and the guys in the Sydney office for organising some great weekends and to i2C and Ryder for the fantastic opportunity.