Cameron Chisholm Nicol is an award-winning Australian leader in integrated architectural, urban and interior design. With a line of continuous practice dating back more than a century, our role in the evolution Perth’s urban fabric is evidenced by the many significant buildings across the CBD and wider metro area we have designed over our long working association with the city.
Our most recent success is the Perth Arena (JV with ARM), which in 2013 received Australia’s highest architectural award – the AIA Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture. This is recognition of our commitment to staying at the forefront of contemporary design and technology and driving a forward-thinking design culture in Perth.
What do we do?
We have an extensive list of local, national and international clients and a proven track record in design and service excellence. From our office in central Perth we service a wide range of sectors including commercial, multi-residential, retail, health, education, hospitality and sport and entertainment. Our focus is on balancing creativity, sustainability and commercial outcomes.
Cameron Chisholm Nicol led the industry by establishing an Interior Design division over 20 years ago. The co-location of our architecture and interiors teams allows us to understand and interpret each project through an efficient collaboration which informs all aspects of design.
From complex urban infrastructure to the sensitive adaptive re-use of Fremantle’s historic Dalgety Woolstores, our portfolio demonstrates finely-crafted design solutions that are attuned to purpose whilst satisfying the demands of multiple stakeholders. Testimonies to our success are the many repeat clients who enjoy working with us across a diverse range of projects.
Cameron Chisholm Nicol designs for people, place and planet.
People are at the core of our work. Research continually brings new insights into how people like to live, work, shop, learn, relax and stay healthy, We are passionate about the potential for design to enhance human experience, and draw on both research and creativity to develop a vision for end-users which delivers tangible benefits to people and communities.
Place-making means creating built environments with authenticity and a meaningful presence in the community they serve and represent. This is a focus of our design philosophy. We explore the physical, cultural and historical factors inherent to a project in order to guide and inform our design decisions. Our goal is the creation of inspirational places with both an individual identity and a sense of belonging.
The planet, and our responsibility to it as designers, is a key driver of our practice. We design to minimise resource use, and have a dedicated Sustainability Committee to foster a culture of environmental accountability across our practice. Through shared research and knowledge, we work not just to meet environmental standards, but to exceed them. We lead by example – the fit-out of our office won a prestigious AIA (WA) Architecture Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2007.
How and when did your studio/ organisation begin?
2014 marks a 130 year anniversary for Cameron Chisholm Nicol, celebrating a continuous line of practice which began in 1884 when Englishman J W Wright established Perth’s first private architectural practice. Since our first commission – the design of Woodbridge House in Guildford in 1885 – we have made a significant contribution to the evolution of Perth’s urban fabric.
In 1906, with the addition of two new partners, the firm became Wright, Powell & Cameron. In 1930 it became Powell, Cameron & Chisholm, with Ossie Chisholm’s partnership beginning long a family association that would carry through until Ossie’s son Ross Chisholm retired in 1992.
The name Cameron Chisholm Nicol came about when Gil Nicol joined in 1952. Gil Nicol and Ross Chisholm (who joined in 1958) formed a prolific and highly creative partnership which would span more than two decades. Projects included the Reid Library (with Gordon Stephenson and Roger Johnson – RIBA Gold Medal 1965), the National Carillon in Canberra (1970) Allendale Square (RAIA Bronze Medal 1977) and the Education Department Building (Sir Zelman Cowen Award 1983). Gil and Ross’s achievements were recognised in 1984 when they were jointly awarded the RAIA Gold Medal. In recent years, projects such as the Perth Arena (AIA Sir Zelman Cowen Award 2013) reflect our continuing commitment to delivering innovative, quality built form.
Who is involved (key people and people numbers)?
Cameron Chisholm Nicol is lead by 5 Directors and has a current staff of 54, including 42 design professionals across the disciplines of architecture and interior design.
Where do you find inspiration for studio/organisation? Are there any local ones?
With the access now afforded to us by digital technology we find inspiration everywhere. We seek global benchmarks for best practice in design and technology on all our projects, but our solutions are firmly grounded in the context of their location. With our emphasis on sustainability we are conscious of using local materials wherever practical.
Perth is seen as an emerging city, particularly for creative industries – do you feel like there are more opportunities in WA right now?
Perth is currently undergoing a surge of infrastructure development which is transforming the city and providing once-in-a-generation opportunities for architects. The Perth Arena, the City Link Project, Elizabeth Quay, Perth Stadium, the New Children’s Hospital – major projects such as these are great for Western Australian architects, and will give a large number of younger architects valuable experience.
What do you think makes working in Western Australia unique?
We all know that Perth is the world’s most isolated city. Digital technology means we are now connected to the rest of the world in real time, but our unique physical environment dictates much about the way we design. The unique combination of our climate, our lifestyle, our history and our local materials all inform our work.
What kind of projects is the studio known for?
Over our long history we have worked across all sectors. In the seventies and eighties were particularly known for our CBD office buildings, whilst at present we are working on several multi-residential and commercial projects. Perth Arena would be our best-known contemporary project. We are extremely proud of it – it has received a large number of awards for excellence in architecture and interior design, and has been very successful as a venue in its first year of operation. We are also renowned for the design of commercially astute and contemporary multi- residential projects.
Where is your favourite hometown spot?
The beaches, the river, the hills, the city, the bars, the restaurants, the music, the markets, the festivals – there really is something for everyone in Perth. However the evolution of the CBD as a bar and dining destination, with the new laneway venues that have opened, has really transformed the city.
What are your favourite local buildings?
Right now it’s still the Perth Arena. Some people in the office have spent literally years of their lives on site, so they may have had enough of it! For the rest of us, we love that it has stimulated public conversation around design and hope that it will help foster a more progressive attitude towards architecture in Perth. It still surprises when approached from an unfamiliar direction or seen from a different vantage point, and its interiors are mesmerising. There is nothing else like it. Otherwise, Council House remains a beautiful modernist icon.
What is the best thing about being involved in the design industry?
We believe that design has the power to enrich people’s lives, and this is what we aspire to in every project we undertake.
What should we expect to see from the studio/organization in the future?
More innovative, sustainable and commercially successful projects. We hope to play a continuing role in the evolution of Perth’s built environment.
Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
The Rolling Stones at the Perth Arena