Seafarers by Riverlee is a waterfront precinct in central Melbourne designed to redefine luxury living. Seafarers’ faceted exterior does more than create a striking urban presence; it yields uniquely large floorplans that the award-winning studio CARR has transformed into magnificent, expansive residences.

The interiors designed by Carr for the residential section of the precinct reference the strong visual language of Fender Katsalidis’ architecture, and also establish a compelling connection to the riverfront setting.

In this interview, Carr managing director Chris McCue discusses the studio’s legacy, ethos and vision for the future, design trends for home offices, designing for downsizers, sustainability considerations in design, and industry response to the pandemic among other insights.

What is it like heading up Carr and filling Sue Carr's shoes and being the next generation at the practice?

Sue and I have worked closely together for my ten-year tenure in helping to build the multi-residential architecture and interior profile. It’s never been about filling shoes, but rather supplementing and upholding a legacy in new areas of the business that build on a vision of design strength, rigour, clarity and longevity. My vision for the future, which we are all actively working on, is to unite all areas of the business in a cohesive whole. We will continue to strive for design excellence and maintain a key focus in the residential space, while broadening our design voice into new markets for what people have traditionally understood CARR to be active in.

With home offices on the rise due to the pandemic, how have you accommodated this into your current and future designs? Has there been a spike in requests for home offices?

Home offices and well-considered spaces encouraging cross-ventilation, daylight and connection to garden, are all fundamentals in biophilic principles, which are inherent in our work. The multitude of workspaces within a single dwelling has definitely risen as we move to more longer-term workplace flexibility and adaptive environments.

With the rise of downsizers, what considerations did you have to incorporate into your designs?

We’ve been designing for downsizers for some time and with these projects come a detailed consideration around the needs of circulation, entertaining, storage, access and the evolving needs of health and wellbeing.

The demographic always starts as an interesting thought bubble at the beginning of a project. As the offering for Seafarers is so diverse, in terms of the location and partnership with 1 Hotels, it’s quite a broad demographic that we’re designing for; but essentially, these are people who are very discerning. We’re aware that they have probably done a significant amount of research, in terms of the apartment market on offer within Melbourne and have a particular eye for quality.

How has sustainability changed in design over the years and how has it impacted the design process (sourcing materials, resources, textures, retention etc.)?

Sustainability across both passive and active measures, material specification and life-cycle assessment are all considerations we prioritise throughout each project. Inherent in everything that we do is the belief that responsible specification throughout the design and detail enables efficiency, buildability and longevity. We apply this approach to the products, finishes and details we execute, all of which equally contribute to a holistic and sustainable project vision.

With the global pandemic, how have you seen the industry and Carr react? Are there certain elements Carr has implemented into their designs to accommodate?

The pandemic for a good portion of the year was a moment to take hold, steady ourselves and hold to the belief of what we do. Our key specialism for owner-occupier residential projects continued with renewed intensity, resulting in an increase in working with clients on bespoke homes.

The focus on an Australian identity, specification, sense of locality and national pride led us to look local more than we had done previously. This was also guided by the devastation of the fires in Australia in late 2019 and early 2020.

Our work with an Indigenous community in the Northern Territory and the rediscovery of Australia as a travel destination, previously overlooked by most of the travelling elite, also came to the forefront. Some of the more boutique hotel and hospitality works have also exposed the popularity and appeal of Australian tourism, which will no doubt generate opportunities for development. We’re already active with several clients to explore untapped opportunities at a level not typically catered for on Australian shores.