Working across 8 offices globally, Marchese Partners – Life 3a is an international consultancy with complete, integrated design services including architecture, interior design and master planning.
Founding Director and CEO Steve Zappia’s role is to guide the growth and strategic direction of the practice globally and to assist the executive and senior leadership teams to meet their business goals and vision. Mr Zappia’s experience and contribution over the years has been instrumental in the growth of the business. His role has encompassed client relationships, general management, and strategic leadership on selected major projects. Mr Zappia spoke with us recently about the company’s growing service offerings, its three pronged approach of Strategy, Design and Research, and the global reach that allows Marchese Partners to keep ahead of current global industry trends.
Strategy, Design, and Research
“The business was founded by Eugene Marchese and myself in 1994 in Sydney,” Mr Zappia says, “and we’ve now grown over the years to 8 offices with 120 staff globally. We have offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Christchurch, Kuala Lumpur, London, and Madrid.”
The business grew quickly, due to the residential apartment boom in Sydney in the late 1990s. Their unique service offering, combining great modern design and a commercial mindset, helped the firm complete many iconic projects in its early years.
“About 20 years ago, we were one of the first design practices to bring our modern design to the Seniors Living and Aged Care sector. This changed the perception of what retirement living could be, and lead us to become the leading practice for the design of Seniors Living and Aged Care in Australia.”
The company’s services were soon sought across the country, and then the world, with the practice growing geographically through Australia and into Asia and Europe. Last year the company launched the Life-3a brand to highlight its expertise in the Seniors Living sector.
“Through this brand we’ve grown our services offering to include strategy and research services, in addition to the traditional design services we’ve always offered. The business has always provided architecture, interior design, and master planning services. However, over the years we’ve realised it takes more than just design to deliver really outstanding projects.”
Now the business provides services in the three main areas of Strategy, Design and Research. In order to deliver really outstanding design, the company works hard to understand its client’s business and their aspirations.
“Often we’re now working with [clients] well before we start designing their projects, helping them to look at their product and services offering, their options, determine their project brief, the project feasibility, how this effects their operations, etc. This pre-design work all falls under our Strategy services banner.”
The company’s Research services likewise informs the design process. It’s important to understand the market, the competing projects in the area, the demographics and needs of an area in order to get the project and the product right.
“Our research team have also worked with a number of universities over the years, to assist us to develop our ‘ageing better’ design principles. This has led to three of our projects being recognized as outstanding in the World Alzheimer’s Report in 2020.”
Once projects are completed, the company often returns to research the outcomes, getting feedback from residents and staff to help understand how to make improvements for the next project. Together with knowledge of the latest global trends in ageing and wellness, this research keeps the team and clients at the forefront of design globally.
“One of the key sectors we work in is the Seniors Living sector, which includes Aged Care and Assisted Living. We’ve also always been known for our Multi-Unit Residential work, including residential apartments, townhouses, build-to-rent, student housing, large-scale mixed-use projects – many of which include residential projects above retail and commercial centres.”
The company also works in the commercial and workplace sector, designing commercial buildings, refurbishments, and office fit outs, hotels and hospitality projects including clubs and restaurants, and some work in the health and education sectors.
“I think there are three main things that differentiate us from our competitors,” Mr Zappia says. “Our full end-to-end service offering covering Strategy, Design, and Research I think is really unique. Our global perspective is unique as well, we understand what’s going on in Europe and Asia, and across Australia and New Zealand.”
The third key differentiator is the company’s core mentality that combines a passion for good design with a client-centric and commercial mindset. Understanding what’s important to our clients really sets the company apart.
“Our collection of full service offerings of Strategy, Design, and Research means we can provide a truly unique end-to-end service for our clients, particularly those in the Seniors Living or Lifestyle Living sectors. We understand what’s important to them, and what’s needed for their local markets, as well as the global trends and opportunities in these sectors.”
In-depth research ensures designs are embedded with evidenced-based outcomes, helping to determine what works best for residents and staff. All this helps the company deliver the next generation in Lifestyle Living developments.
“Again, our international perspective, understanding what’s going on across the world [is unique], but also sharing that knowledge amongst all our staff. Our staff communicate daily, we collaborate daily through our various offices. It also means we have a 16-hour workday, which is pretty unique. We can deliver at quite amazing speed.”
Above all, the practice has a unique mentality, combining a passion for design with a commercial mindset, striving for exceptional design, while also understanding what’s important to clients. “Our designs need to be beautiful, but also efficient and buildable and they must also maximize the full potential of their site”.
“There have been a number of amazing projects we’ve worked on around the world over the last couple of years in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. For example, our Brisbane office is currently working on the Chevron One residential tower for Bensons Property Group, at Chevron Island on the Gold Coast.”
The project will be an iconic 42-storey residential tower, with a super modern design based on repetitive circular forms, inspired by nature. The building will include Australia’s largest sub-penthouse and penthouse apartments, valued at $25m and $50m respectively.
“In Sydney, we’ve recently started construction on the Newgreens Chatswood development at Chatswood Golf Club. This project includes the Watermark Residences – a new Seniors Living development of 106 apartments – and a brand-new golf clubhouse for the Newgreens Golf Club.”
This is a great example of a leading-edge Lifestyle Living project. Every apartment will have spectacular views over the golf course and residents will be offered the best amenities and food and beverage offerings in the new clubhouse.
“In Victoria, our Melbourne office has recently completed a 6,000m2 commercial building and medical centre for Lyndoch Living. The building’s structure is constructed from sustainable cross laminated and glue laminated timber, which is a relatively new and sustainable building method. Not many firms in Australia have experience with this type of construction, so we’re quite proud of finishing a building like that.”
The building features a landscaped central courtyard to promote health and wellbeing for staff and visitors, and the top floor is dedicated to a facility for training and industry collaboration.
A number of Later Living projects are also in progress in the UK, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. In London, the company has recently completed a high-end, Later Living development for Riverstone in Fulham on the banks of the River Thames.
“This project offers an amazing array of facilities and amenities, such as a high-end, publicly accessible restaurant and bar on the waterfront, an amazing cinema and pool and wellness centre and an onsite care and wellbeing team. This project is now one of the leading Seniors Living developments in London.”
With its global footprint, Marchese Partners – Life 3a are able to see emerging trends across the world. The Seniors Living sector globally is particularly interesting because, while each market is at a different stage of maturity, many of the issues are the same across the world.
“Aged Care as a standalone business model has a lot of challenges in many countries at the moment. However, to counteract that, what we are seeing as a solution to these challenges is the emergence of co-located, lifestyle-based Seniors Living and Aged Care developments.”
In these new developments, some care services are provided on site, either co-located or integrated into the development. This enables residents to move in when they are active for the lifestyle benefits these developments offer, and then they can age in place over time and be provided care services in their own apartment as their needs change.
“When these developments are done well – like our Gaynes Park project in Adelaide, or our Mark Moran project in Vaucluse – we have seen these projects be very beneficial for the residents, but also very financially successful for their operators. I think this is the model of the future.”
Another related trend is the Downsizer Apartment Market, which like Seniors Living is becoming very attractive option to new developers and operators in Australia and around the world as global populations are ageing.
Much of the wealth in the world is held by older generations, tied up in their traditional large family homes. It makes sense to offer them more appropriate housing as they age, enabling them to downsize and have lower maintenance and better lifestyle.
“We are seeing this in many of our projects at the moment, including many straight residential projects. We are seeing larger 3 bedroom apartments selling really well, whilst the smaller units are no longer selling as well, due to the current affordability issues for younger buyers and current negative investor sentiment.”
The company has been assisting many traditional residential developers and some Seniors Living operators in navigating these emerging trends, helping them develop the right solutions for their projects.
“I think we’ll see this trend continue over the next couple of years as we design to suit this market. There is bit of science to getting these developments right, so I think it’s really important developers consider this market properly as this will be a big part of the residential market in the coming years.”
Another trend that has developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is the emergence of wellness and hospitality-based design merging into most sectors. Homes, apartments, Aged Care, retail and commercial office environments are now infused with hotel and resort-style design.
“There is a trend of looking towards the role of design in supporting and enabling good health. We’re seeing this as a way to promote wellness and lifestyle whilst also reducing social isolation, improving our home and work environments.”
Corporate offices are a perfect example, with work environments shifting to offer a more casual and comfortable setting, more homelike, in an attempt to make it attractive to work in the office again.
“We need to provide more inviting workplaces, with breakout areas and casual dining, comfortable seating, warm and natural materials, and landscaping. This will encourage staff to come back to the office and be less isolated at home.”
This trend is also happening in residential and Seniors Living developments, which look and feel more like a resort, providing plenty of landscaped areas and communal facilities, rather than traditional straight residential tower blocks.
“Sustainability is also an area we are investing a lot of time in. We as architects and designers have a responsibility to ensure we design as sustainably as we can to minimize our impact on the planet.”
This is something Marchese Partners – Life 3a is committed to, with the recent projects at Bernborough Ascot in Brisbane for Lendlease, and the Newgreens at Chatswood project in Sydney perfect examples of this approach.
Bernborough Ascot is the first 6 star rated community Seniors Living development in Australia, and the Chatswood project will include over 2,000 solar panels on the roof, enabling the residents to live ‘off grid’ and not pay any electricity bills.
“As a business, we are also taking steps to reduce our own carbon footprint and to be responsible corporate citizens,” Mr Zappia concludes. “I think this is a really important commitment to our future.”
With three decades of experience and a global footprint, Marchese Partners – Life3a maximise property potential through inspirational design that improves the quality of life of its inhabitants, while contributing to environmental sustainability. Find out more about Marchese Partners – Life 3a by visiting www.marchesepartners.com.
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