The DesignInc Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne studios are setting new benchmarks in education typologies.
Getting to Know Cameron Martin
Cameron Martin heads up the education and health portfolios in the DesignInc Sydney studio. We talked with Cameron about his journey as a designer, his motivations, and life outside architecture.
Hi Cameron, tell us a bit about how your career has led you to this point.
Becoming an architect was something I wanted to do from a young age, which was strange because I didn’t come from a family background of designers or architects. There was no other career path in my mind. I think my interest in architecture came from playing with my huge box of lego, and creating crazy structures as a kid along with drawing and sketching. Once I was in high school I was able to develop my technical drawing skills and that set me up for my architecture studies. When it came time to go to university, architecture was the only course I applied for, so lucky I got in!
After graduating, I struggled finding work in the UK due to the recession that took place in the early 1990s. So, I decided to take advantage of my unemployed status and booked a one-way ticket to Australia. I travelled around for a whole year, fruit picking and back packing my way across the country, and fell in love with it. I always knew one day I would come back.
I returned to the UK and I landed my first job post-graduation working at a small architecture firm. I stayed there a few years and gained enough experience where I was able to move into an Associate position at Hickton Madeley Architects. I worked with an incredible design-focused team delivering large scale conference centres and education facilities. The practice grew quickly by winning design competitions, and I became a Director and was asked to buy into the practice. It was a great opportunity for a young architect, but I had reached a pivotal point in my life and knew I wanted a change. I resigned, packed up, and made the big move to Sydney.
I worked with an incredible design-focused team delivering large scale conference centres and education facilities.Cameron Martin
Principal, DesignInc Sydney
Once I arrived in Sydney, I joined a practice based in Crows Nest. Eventually, the opportunity presented itself for my colleague, Sven Ollmann, and I to buy the practice, where we then formed Martin & Ollmann Architects. We grew the practice to 30 people and over 10 years enjoyed designing a number of important healthcare and education projects, including Sydney Adventist Hospital, Notre Dame Clinical Education Centre, and Triniti Business Park. We had a great team, and I loved what I did. Running your own practice brings a lot of rewards, but my own work life balance was suffering.
In February 2022, I made the decision to step into a Principal role at DesignInc. I was drawn to DesignInc because I could tell straight away that the studio has a good culture. Culture in the workplace should always be number one. Architecture is more than just delivering projects, its how you deliver them.
I was drawn to DesignInc because I could tell straight away that the studio has a good culture. Culture in the workplace should always be number one. Architecture is more than just delivering projects, its how you deliver them.Cameron Martin
Principal, DesignInc Sydney
What are your design motivations when delivering a project?
We design for the client, not ourselves or other architects, and the secret to delivering a great design is simple: listen well and ask the right questions. Interrogate all aspects of the design. Ask ‘why’ and get to the root of what a client wants, and from there figure out how you can functionally make it work. The design process of a project should never be dominated by one person. Innovation comes from collaboration. Every member of a design team should have a say and the opportunity to speak up and ask questions. Thoroughly questioning and reviewing a design internally is an integral part of the process. Just because you have years of experience doesn’t mean you will always get something right; it’s important to be open to change and trying something new.
What do you want to bring to your new role at DesignInc?
It sounds like a cliche, but my mission is to drive everyone to design excellence. This is something I firmly believe is only achieved through a solid company culture; it is the backbone of great design. It’s so important every team member enjoys the design process and the environment they are designing in in order to foster creativity and collaboration. The secret to delivering a great design is simple: listen well and ask the right questions. Interrogate all aspects of the design. Ask ‘why’. Cameron Martin, Principal, DesignInc Sydney
What draws you to designing health project specifically?
Health buildings are complex designs. Each facility is uniquely its own and have to be designed specifically for the needs of the individual users. The best health buildings come from listening to the healthcare professionals. Skilled stakeholder management is critical—it’s like a puzzle. You have to work hard to strategically put together the wants and needs of the client and the healthcare users and balance that against standards and budget. Finding the common ground between the two and putting those pieces together can be a challenge.
On a personal level I find designing healthcare buildings incredibly rewarding. Working with healthcare professionals, particularly in regional Australia, and seeing their level of patient care and passion for what they do is very inspiring. Helping these healthcare workers realise a facility that supports their mission brings a lot of joy. You get to know each individual and develop bonds and friendships. The bonds that are formed makes for the ultimate collaboration during the design process; and good, open collaboration and interrogation always leads to excellent design.
Joining as Principal at DesignInc, I hope to grow the national health portfolio and build on the experience the studio has from significant projects already completed such as VCCC and Royal Adelaide Hospital. I am looking forward to seeing where this year takes us.
On a personal level I find designing healthcare buildings incredibly rewarding. Working with doctors and nurses, particularly in regional Australia, and seeing their level of patient care and passion for what they do is very inspiring.Cameron Martin
Principal, DesignInc Sydney
Tell us a bit about life beyond the office.
I have three older kids, aged 23, 21 and 18 and enjoy spending as much time with them as possible on the weekends. Its a bit harder now though as they are getting older and busier! I’m enjoying seeing them grow into adults and exploring their own interests and passions.
I walk 10kms every morning before work while listening to audiobooks. During lockdown I was walking after work as well, which took me to over 20km a day!
I love playing golf, and play every Saturday morning at Manly Golf Club. Recently, I have been able to blend my golf and architecture passions. I got a glimpse at the drawings of renovations being done to the club facilities, and decided to get involved as I believed the design should be driven harder. I presented my design suggestions to the Board, and before you know it, I am now developing a masterplan and have 10 side projects running for the Club. So now even in my spare time I am designing!
It was great talking to you today Cameron. Thanks for sharing your story!