Catherine Ng, Associate – Architecture, has worked with CM+ for 15 years. Her experience in Australia and abroad, mentored by Darrel Conybeare and William Morrison as well as London architect Eric Kuhne, has shaped her belief that great design should be available to all, and grounded in the culture of its local context.
Catherine first joined CM+ as a designer in 2002. She travelled to the UK in 2008 to work with Kuhne’s creative firm, CivicArts, then spent time on project design and interior fitout with Capital Growth of Western Sydney University, before returning to CM+.
She shares her design philosophy, her architectural journey so far, and some insights into life beyond the scale ruler.
Darrel Conybeare and William Morrison founded CM+ in 1980. What does their legacy mean to you?
Bill and Darrel brought design to the Sydney public domain in the 1980s. Their works include significant urban redevelopment projects at Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, the University of Sydney masterplan and M7 infrastructure bridge designs.
It has been great to witness their strategic planning approach. They provide a wider vision on urban planning for public and private buildings, landscape design, the conservation design of adaptive reuse of buildings, and street furniture – their approach is very holistic.
One of their guiding principles is that design should be equally accessible to the public for all, and create memorable experiences for people to enjoy – that has influenced me greatly.
Seeing the public’s response to my projects is now one of the highlights of my job: observing how architecture comes to life with the vibrancy of a community.
You have also spent time in Eric Kuhne’s CivicArts office in the UK, how did that influence your work?
Eric sought to bring people into a design through art and stories inspired by the local culture. It was a very design-focused office – each day we would research and explore different ideas. The technical teams would separately resolve design issues. In Australia these teams tend to be more integrated – at CM+ I am fortunate to work with a team with different expertise and experience within the same office.
What do you love most about working with CM+?
Our workplace culture is open and engaging. Sharing knowledge and discoveries is encouraged, and there’s room to explore your abilities. Working on many projects over my 15 years here has been excellent training and development. I’ve been fortunate to work with a great team and be mentored by CM+ leaders.
We have a very multicultural team; I enjoy working with people from so many different backgrounds. Everyone respects each other’s culture and our diversity of perspectives is a real strength.
What do you value about the CM+ design philosophy?
We always look to the client’s needs. We seek to understand a project from their perspective, and work closely on solutions to serve both the client and the user.
What is the number one thing you have learned during your time with CM+?
There are three. First, to work closely alongside the client towards a design solution, to be an intuitive partner.
Second, to see requests for adjustments to your design in a positive light. These are a chance to improve the outcome for the client, and to make you a better designer.
Third, to strive to design places that sustain people’s interest. Rather than building a monument to your design vision, great architecture connects with its context and interacts with surrounding places. It attracts people to return time and time again.
What’s your go-to for inspiration, if a design issue is feeling stuck?
I go for a walk. It’s all about observation – no genie or mediation required. I have a look at the local streets, try to find similar scenarios, and study how it has been resolved in reality.
Which super power would you choose?
Time is crucial for design work, so to freeze time would be great!
Where can we find you in your spare time?
Walking my dog, Bella. She’s a four-month-old Mini Foxie. She’s very energetic and growing fast.
I also go to church, and teach kids in Sunday School. At first I was quite strict but I’ve found that building a relationship is more important, to inspire them.
What are you excited about working on in 2019?
I can’t wait to witness the completion of all nine NorthConnex buildings and the tunnel, an accomplishment of the CM+ urban design and architecture teams with Context Landscape Design, together with great support from our client Lend Lease Bouygues Joint Ventures.
I am also looking forward to the next challenge, from business development through to the detailed design and delivery of the next exciting project. I enjoy mentoring my team now to continue Bill and Darrel’s legacy.