While we’ve all heard the stories of fall outs and conflicts between developer and architect, it is less-common to hear about successful projects that were built on the foundations of a healthy client/designer relationship.

Below is a discussion between Cam Ginardi of GBW Group and Liam Proberts of Brisbane architecture practice, Bureau^proberts who believe they have one of those relationships. Ginardi and Proberts worked together on the internationally recognised SILT apartments on the Brisbane River and using that project as a case study, discuss what it takes achieve a successful design and development partnership.



I knew Liam’s approach was different because he was the first architect that ever said ‘Let’s meet at the site first and have a look’. Understanding of a site is critical to making the most of your project and this is the real value an architect can bring to a project. Bureau^proberts knew how to maximise the positives like the amazing views but also how to minimise the negatives like the traffic noise — this is something architects do better than developers.

One of the key things I’ve learnt is don’t be locked in to what you think is the right design and don’t copy-cat other projects — every site has its own peculiarities and you won’t maximise the value of your site by rehashing old ideas. If we had gone for a conventional design for SILT the result would have been less commercially successful.

The keys to our relationship are mutual trust and regular communication — I discuss my projects with Bureau^proberts on a weekly basis over three to six months. There is a true exchange of ideas. Many developers think they know best but you have to an open mind and believe in your architect’s vision to really get the best design for your needs.  If you don’t have that level of trust in your architect, or you want to control major aspects of the design you don’t need an architect — you need a draftsperson.

I’ve also learnt that the process of good design takes time. If you want drawings for a DA in three weeks, you’ll get a three-week design and the outcome of those designs is evident. Spend more time on your design to create a point of difference in the market and greater liveability. When the building goes to market, you’ll get a better price-point and it will be easier to sell.

I think the market will continue to grow strongly in the next five years. As more buyers with different budgets and needs enter the market, it will be important to develop the right product at the right price point for the each market.

Planning is also very important. We do need a plan about how we want our city to evolve and grow but within those rules you need flexibility to explore new ideas. If the council had applied all the rules to SILT it would never have been built. We still need to go further and focus on design and outcomes; more flexibility will allow good design to result.



The most important thing is for the client and architect’s aims for a project to be in alignment and to trust in each other to get there. We spent a lot of time getting to know Cam and what he wants from his developments. On both projects, we have worked hard to really understand his vision and his commercial objectives. We combine this knowledge with our knowledge of the current and future market conditions. This is our foundation to build a unique and responsive design that will be commercially viable.

Other key elements are responsiveness and knowing the building type and market. We will look at the client’s ideas and then often advise them how to take it one step further to create even more value. We bounce ideas back and forth until we end up with a design that truly works for the client, the market and the delivery method.

Good design happens when the client engages with us and allows it to happen. Trust is key to the process. As is understanding that we might need several iterations before we get the right design — flexibility on both sides is essential.

Of course the architect also needs to be able to put all of these elements together in a design that tells a good story and represents the benefits of the project. For us that often starts with the qualities of a site. Each site is unique and will have aspect, connection or views that are unique to itself. Its location will often also inform us of who the user group or buyers will be and what particular things they are looking for. It’s as if the location prequalifies itself for a particular type of project. When we design with these things as drivers the projects do have a strong and contemporary design character, however, they often have a sense that they belong where they are. We find that makes our projects desirable in the market and brings value to a project.

This conversation was published with permission from Lindy Johnson
Photography by Christopher Frederick-Jones