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Canberra bound:
Launching our
new studio

This month Architectus is landing in the capital, opening a dedicated studio in Canberra to support our current and emerging work in the city. Leading the charge is the inimitable Alex Lawlor, a strategic thinker who has excelled at tackling ‘wicked problems’ as our National Leader Resilience + Renewal over the past several years.

Known for the enthusiasm and creativity she brings to our annual Design Charrettes, Alex’s background spans the public and private sectors, from development to higher education. It’s a perfect mix for her new studio leadership role in Canberra, where she’s focused on building relationships and making a positive, lasting impact on the vitality of the nation’s capital.

What’s the impetus for opening a Canberra studio now?

Canberra is a key location in many ways. For starters, it’s an expanding market, with the ACT leading the country in economic growth for the decade up to 2023.

“It’s a city of movers and shakers – a place where we’re seeing some of the country’s most ambitious projects emerge.”

We’ve already made great inroads there in recent years, completing urban design projects like Canberra Metro Stage 1, expanding our Education + Research portfolio with clients like ANU, and taking on a range of other work including The Capitol Residence apartments in the heart of the city.

With a range of newer projects under way, it made sense to set up a fully-fledged studio to extend our reach and build new relationships and networks. At the same time, a permanent presence makes it easier for our teams to support ongoing work on major civic projects like Canberra Theatre Centre and Telstra Tower, both iconic Canberra buildings.

“The studio’s opening creates great opportunities for staff to expand their design skills and gain exposure to city-shaping projects and key influencers.”

We see Canberra as a unique, vibrant place for our team to live and work. It’s got all the ingredients for a great lifestyle.

What kind of new work are you pursuing, after success in sectors such as Public, Education + Research, and Urban Futures?

Our areas of interest include workplace, adaptive re-use, and, not surprisingly, residential. Housing is a pressing issue in our capital cities, and this one is no exception. In the Living sector, we have great expertise in Build-to-Rent and Build-to-Sell, as well as social housing. We’ve also built up a portfolio of student accommodation, which is always in demand.

Alex Lawlor, Principal and Studio Leader Canberra

How has your career path brought you here? What drew you to the role?

My career has been punctuated by periods working within the public sector, in the world of development, and also in higher education.

“I understand what makes Canberra tick. It’s a place that revolves around public service and civic life, but it also has a thriving business and commercial scene to support that.”

The city also fosters the kind of innovation that bubbles up when you have a population that’s highly educated, with a lot of students and a good dose of entrepreneurial spirit. That excites me as someone who has dedicated a lot of time to exploring new directions in design.

Speaking of innovation, you’re holding your upcoming Charrette in Canberra. What’s the plan?

Our Design Charrettes are a highlight for the practice every year. We bring a range of designers together to explore new opportunities for a city – to dream big. And what better time to make Canberra our focus?

“We admire Canberra’s strong building character. Layers of heritage, planning controls, and development criteria present challenges for designers, but they also point to unique opportunities to innovate and invigorate the city.”

At the upcoming Charrette, we’re going to explore a precinct in the heart of Canberra, proposing new ways to draw more people and activity to the city centre.

Most recently you were the go-to at Architectus for sustainability and renewal. How will that figure into your new leadership role?

Sustainability is part of everything we do at Architectus – it’s embedded and ever present. Our understanding of ecological and social sustainability is vital to our work as designers, strategists, and collaborators. And we know how important that is to our clients across all our markets.

“Designing for resilience and renewal is critical to cities like Canberra, which have to adapt to climate change and bring communities on the journey with them.”

So what’s the plan for day one, Alex? No pressure!

We’re taking a long view – it’s important to remember that! We want to build up those relationships, our client base, and our projects. It’s a strategic, steady approach. We’re in it for for the long haul.



At top: Canberra Theatre Centre (Architectus, Henning Larson and Arup; render by Aesthetica)


Sustainable design wins at NSW Chapter Awards