Kukame McKenzie
Perth Studio Leader

“As a project architect, I produce buildings just the way you’d produce a piece of theatre or dance.”

“Every day in Year 12, I caught the bus to school past the National Museum of Australia site and I watched it being built. That’s where my interest in architecture began. I had never seen anything like it before—it was a building that told a story and had ideas and meaning. After I finished school, I went into theatrical lighting and design and production for a few years. Then I decided to bite the bullet and become an architect.

The thing that I like about architecture is that it’s a little bit of everything. It’s a combination of the creative and artistic with the pragmatic and the technical.

As a project architect, I produce buildings just the way you’d produce a piece of theatre or dance. It’s a different medium but the principles are very similar. You have a process, you embark on it, you have an idea, you follow it through, you test things that work and don’t work and you try it again. You refine and resolve the idea to produce an outcome. The process culminates on opening night, or in the case of architecture, the building’s opening.

In my role as head of ARM’s Perth office, I do a bit of everything. I work with clients, I look after the delivery of projects, I do business development and I keep my eye out for potential opportunities. I’m attending sites, going to meetings, coordinating teams and projects, keeping the wheels turning during construction. I also do a fair bit of design development—that’s the crunchy bit where you start turning concepts into products and refining material.

I enjoy what I do because it’s motivating and inspirational to be part of a team that does such interesting and significant work. I love the rush of pitching a design for the first time, resolving a design or construction problem, meeting with clients or seeing my family walking around one of our projects for the first time. And when you see people engaging with architecture or urban design or space in a way that they may not have in the past it’s pretty exciting—exhilarating actually. That’s why I do it.”