It’s the opportunity to create something unexpected that fuels Genton’s passion for architecture, says Marc Debney, one of two Directors of Genton – a multi-award-winning Architecture and Design Studio, with offices in both Melbourne and Sydney. Marc joins Steven Toia to oversee a growing and ambitious team of talented architects, interior designers, 3D-modellers and documentation experts. With a growing team in the Melbourne office and a Sydney office comprised of carefully-curated industry innovators, Marc says Genton’s growth has had to come quickly to fulfil the scale of their current wave of success. It’s a success that has flowed since capturing public attention as the winner of a design competition to re-imagine Frankston train station. Now that concept has become a reality, the chance to showcase their design skills in such a public space has led to other exciting projects in the rail & infrastructure space.
Working on the firm’s first rail project at Frankston was, in Marc’s words, a chance to transform a local landmark in a fresh way. Seeing the former nondescript train station building evolve into “a brilliant white landmark, with a shimmering canopy” is something the Genton team is enormously proud of. Creating the development meant serving two clients. There was the State Government, of course, but there was also the community who would use this civic structure on a daily basis. Thorough research on the broader Frankston community an understanding of how Frankston sees itself to the Genton team – with a strong coastal connection and as the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula. “We used the materiality and the form to convey that connection” says Marc. “We believe in responding strongly to the local context.”
Genton’s strength, says Marc, is to be design-led, but always practical. To achieve that, Genton does things differently than most and invites external industry specialists to form a review panel to critique designs at key project milestones. For the Genton team who willingly expose themselves to this process, it is seen as a privilege to be analysed and advised through the feedback of respected professional peers. The approach fits perfectly with the Genton ethos of accountability, honesty and integrity. It also keeps them grounded and focused and highlights their position as a young firm, keen to learn and grow even more.
The first stage of the Frankston train station competition was anonymous, so knowing they were only chosen on their design merits gave the young team a boost that was fundamental to their ongoing confidence. “The whole team became more motivated. We backed ourselves even more” says Marc. Steven Toia agrees that the feeling of creating something lasting and useful is a powerful thing. “The new station and works in the public domain in collaboration with McGregor Coxall have integrated the station with the town centre, as well as enhanced the safety of the precinct.’
In a competitive industry, winning the competition for Frankston Station reminded the Genton team that beautiful, thoughtful design is at the foundation of every successful architectural project – and that there is still a world of opportunities available to architects, designers and developers with fresh perspective and the skills to see innovative infrastructure projects come to life.
“Genton proposed a masterplan at the early stages of the competition that demonstrated our capacity to quickly understand technical limitations and opportunities to develop a design that allowed for Frankston Station to transition in the future should the line be electrified to Stony Point and signal rodding removed without the need to remove substantial elements of the current investment, ‘says Steven of their successful entry. “The process established by the OVGA appealed to our team and enabled us to communicate our vision for Frankston. Working on public buildings is a great privilege and responsibility that really hit home when a commuter wrote to us directly to share how their journey had improved with the work we did in re-planning the station buildings to improve the process of boarding and disembarking.”
Genton’s current project – Reservoir train station in Melbourne’s bustling northern corridor – is due for completion in 2020 and has come with its own unique challenges. The logistics of developing a larger, elevated station inspired a different design approach and, with a need to create a connection between two separate high streets, a combination of local research and context was, again, at the forefront of every design decision.
“Train stations are functional but, no matter what we do, we look at projects from a broader, urban perspective,” Marc says. “We love creating things that are uplifting. Architectural infrastructure is most successful when it elevates the space around it.”