Steve McKeag joins founders Justin Northrop and Nick Travers as the third director at the award-winning Technē, which has recently completed notable projects including Garden State Hotel, Rooftop Bar and Cinema, and Brunetti Flinders Lane.
As well as drawing on his skill as an experienced registered architect, McKeag's flair for people and relationships will see him concentrate on client relationships and securing new projects for the steadily evolving practice.
For McKeag, the connection between human relationships and design excellence is an area of fascination.
As to how hospitality design has changed over the decade, McKeag says that over the last 10 years, hospitality customers' expectations have changed completely.
"While great architecture and design may have been optional 20 years ago, and desirable 10 years ago, these aspects are now a definite prerequisite for the success of any new major restaurant in Melbourne today."
" A strong design identity that builds in a sense of welcome and enjoyment needs to be interwoven with the food and beverage offering of any venue," McKeag says.
"This is because, particularly in the inner city, bars and restaurants are increasingly being seen as the natural environment for urban residents to 'outsource' entertaining family and friends."
"Now more than ever, it's key for architects and designers to approach hospitality design in a way that is highly engaging and shows an awareness of how every corner of the space will be utilised," he says.
As to whether clients are expecting more from the architect these days in terms of what they can get out of an available space, especially in the hospitality sector, McKeag says that these days, the intensity, expenditure and attention to detail that is applied to contemporary projects is at another level.
"As designers and architects, we're required to consider hospitality design in holistic terms. Interior design, furniture and lighting, graphics and collateral, flatware, cutlery and glassware all need to interlock and work together."
"Clients expect an integrated and collaborative approach from us in order to deliver the memorable, differentiated experience they are looking for," he says.
For example he notes, "Working closely with Sandhill Road on projects such as the Prahran Hotel, Garden State Hotel and more recently The Espy has been a welcome exercise in evaluating the available space of a venue carefully"
"A site has to be meticulously considered from end to end, and entry to exit, in order to achieve the ideal use of space. In the best possible way, architects need to make every square metre work its hardest," says McKeag.
"Personally, I feel that what's most important in hospitality is the sense of personal engagement that design can foster between a venue and the customer," he says.
"While we may be experimenting with technologies such as self-serve kiosks and adaptive service models such as Uber Eats, the architecture of a space should be more personal and play into the tactile, inhabitable elements that make up the DNA of a successful venue."
"That said, social media platforms such as Instagram can generate 'destination venues' whose popularity has arisen through the power of the shared image, which can be great. Just to give one example, it could create the opportunity for top regional venues to attract visitors," he notes.