DS Architects: Shaping buildings that meet the future through perpetual evolution

As the practice matures into its next chapter, the senior team at DS Architects – Associates Carlee Smith and David Cardamone, with Managing Director Peter Schreuder – share thoughts on their pragmatic approach, milestone projects and future plans.

DS Architects has come a long way since their origins as Blomquist + Wark in 1976. Their continued evolution is marked by the expert delivery of highly specialised buildings, enduring projects and client relationships.

Drawn to the dynamic working environment established by founding partners Peter Blomquist and Graham Wark, a young Peter Schreuder came on board in 2000, hitting the ground running on a range of educational and industrial projects. By this time, the practice had cultivated decades of invaluable expertise across varied sectors, with a number of notable industrial, institutional, education and government projects in their portfolio, including many technically complex projects.

With a passion for developing clever solutions to address their clients’ complex needs, the practice now known as DS Architects learned to look toward industries outside of architecture to innovate, and better inform their fit-for-purpose designs. The team developed great proficiency in delivering technical works, where a building’s efficacy and functionality were valued far more than its looks.

“When I joined, I remember thinking – this practice has great clients, the work is incredibly interesting and technically brilliant, but there wasn’t necessarily an emphasis on the design or aesthetic offering,” says Peter. “I thought if we could grow that part of our business, it could really take us to the next level.”

Becoming Managing Director in 2008, Peter looked to build on DS Architects’ foundation of significant public works. He recalls the George Swinburne Student Hub at Swinburne University and the more recently completed Sports Science Centre at Deakin University as two major projects that demonstrate the practice’s affinity for tenaciously researched, multifaceted and artfully composed tertiary buildings, built to match the global reputation of these leading institutions.

Continuing DS Architects’ characteristically rigorous, resourceful approach, Peter has cultivated a stable team underpinned by senior architects with excellent technical knowledge while opening the door to the next generation to shape the business trajectory.

Associate Carlee Smith has been with the practice for nearly a decade, bringing her keen focus on internal operations and processes to maintain a genuinely human-centred practice. Associate David Cardamone joined three years ago with a dedicated eye on growing the business’ stellar portfolio of sports and recreation and high-performance projects. Both earned senior positions via clear pathways for career progression outlined from the outset.

“When I began, there was an enormous focus on technical documentation as well as being able to run projects successfully – it was an amazing place to land early in my career because we had the chance to learn every aspect of the work,” says Carlee. “If someone sees something that can be improved, they are welcome to raise it. Everyone has a voice and can be part of change.”

“By supporting each person to grow and develop into the best version of themselves, we foster a supportive environment for the long term,” says David. “We talk about internal performance a lot, with a belief that if someone wants to contribute, that ultimately benefits the whole team.”

DS Architects’ progressive outlook extends to an in-house culture of open exchange, celebrating collective contributions while deliberately shifting away from the kind of top-down hierarchies which have historically defined the profession. Team members with specific skill sets are encouraged to extend training and mentorship to others, regardless of seniority, and all are invited to research global projects of interest to build up a shared body of knowledge. While new talent is welcome and nurtured, as the practice approaches its fifth decade of business, the size of the team at DS Architects has remained consistent.

“Our aspiration was never to be a 100-man practice or add resources and scale up just for the sake of it,” says Peter. “Our ambition is simple: to be the most efficient high-performance team.”

As ever, the team thrives on challenges, and their reputation for adept handling of complex projects continues to generate a strong pipeline of new opportunities. DS Architects is currently collaborating with a private developer on delivering a new vision for Geelong Healthcare Precinct. Breaking ground in 2022 and soon to be completed, this project neatly embodies their approach: achieved through proactive teamwork, grounded in detailed research and exploration, and the dogged pursuit of outcomes which provide public benefit far beyond the brief. With a number of exciting projects in the wings, what’s on the horizon for DS Architects?

“We’re all about working with like-minded, driven people who strive to improve with every project,” says Peter. “We want to continue sharing our specialist knowledge on industry-leading projects that make a real difference for our clients and the built environment. For our team, there is no final destination or pre-determined path. We continue to look to the horizon for evolving market conditions, technology and the next design challenge.”