What’s in a name?
Who is ClarkeHopkinsClarke, exactly? Pick apart our name and you find our founders: RMIT Architecture graduates Jack Clarke, David Hopkins and Les Clarke. Chalk and cheese. Unlikely friends. True believers in the power of architecture to connect people and communities, fulfil needs and enrich lives.
Jack Clarke was a legend of Australian Rules Football who captained The Bombers to their 1962 Flag and gave his brother Ron, the world-record-breaking distance runner, a run for his money in the fitness department. Jack was a one-off, reserved and hardworking. David Hopkins, on the other hand, was the quintessential extrovert: energetic, charismatic, mischievous. Les Clarke AM was the visionary and unofficial leader of the trio: curious, passionate, humble. He brought out those qualities in others, too, and was a cherished mentor to many of our current leaders right up until his retirement at age 80.
The founding Partners were people people, one and all. Optimistic, resourceful, creative. The ink was barely dry on their graduation certificates when they began Clarke & Associates from a small office in Hotham Street, East Melbourne, back in June 1961. By day they learned the ropes in graduate roles with established practices before making the leap into full-time private practice.
In the early years Jack ran the iconic Small Homes Service begun by Robin Boyd, arguably Australia’s most influential architect. As a result Clarke & Associates were approached to design and build residential homes right across the country.
The SHS is a celebrated chapter in Australian architectural history. A collaboration between Boyd, the Royal Victoria Institute of Architects and The Age newspaper, its mission was to popularise modern home design in Australia’s suburbs. The service created economical architectural plans for well designed compact homes that did more with less and championed timeless passive design principles like good solar orientation and maximising living space and outdoor connectivity.
Each week, a house plan by an anonymous architect was published in The Age accompanied by a Boyd column discussing modern design and the new ways of living it allowed. Myer sold blueprints for five pounds each, ready for use by local builders in the new suburban subdivisions opening up at the time. The impact was staggering. It's estimated 5000 SHS homes were built, or around 15% of all homes constructed in Victoria at the time.. In his later years, keen to address negative impacts of suburban sprawl, Boyd embraced new medium density typologies. Architect and writer Rory Hyde speculates that these days Boyd would likely advocate for a Small Homes Adaptability Service. Architects would function a little like GPs, offering residents and neighbourhoods regular interventions over time to find creative ways to share space, energy and resources and evolve more caring, productive, self-supporting communities.
Myer sold blueprints for five pounds each, ready for use by local builders in the new suburban subdivisions opening up at the time. The impact was staggering. It's estimated 5000 SHS homes were built, or around 15% of all homes constructed in Victoria at the time.
Transforming Australia’s suburbs with high quality affordable housing and density done well has been central to ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s mission from the outset, too. Our Multi-residential, Mixed use and Seniors Living and Care teams collaborate with ever more diverse, impact-minded developers and not-for-profits including Women’s Housing Limited, Aboriginal Housing Victoria, Baptcare, Mayflower and QIC on inventive typologies and placemaking with social, environmental and financial sustainability at its heart.
Our Urban Design team extends this ethos into masterplanning and city shaping. Its walkable, medium density, mixed use town centres have brought inner-city connectivity to suburbs, growth corridors and coastal towns. Since the 2015 publication of Creating Vibrant Communities, Partner Dean Landy’s book exploring the best Australian placemaking and his team’s own distinctive methodology, ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s urban design projects have grown exponentially in scope and social impact ambition. The trick? Never losing sight of the ultimate goal: happier, healthier people consciously embracing their interdependence on natural environments and thriving communities.
Our lens on the world has expanded, along with our sphere of influence. We’re now hosting industry events like the 2021 Future Cities Symposium exploring ways to design more regeneratively, and designing future-focused, carbon neutral cities and major urban renewal and infill projects across Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, New Zealand and rural Kenya and Uganda. As always, fruitful collaborations with leading practices and long-time friends like Roberts Day and international innovators like Cheshire Architects and LandLAB are central to vision, delivery and success.
Strength in diversity
Expanding into diverse sectors and multi-disciplinary projects started early at ClarkeHopkinsClarke. Les led the with way in the 1970s with a foray into educational design sparked by a disappointing search for an innovative school close to home for his daughter, Helen. “Design your own,” advised client and friend Bert Stevens AM, principal at Essendon Grammar, whose introductions got the ball rolling. The result was Eltham College, a multi-award-winning school lauded for a progressive learning environment featuring strong links between interiors and landscape.
Eltham College (one of many longstanding clients, and the secondary school for the two boys of a current Partner) was born from the community consultation and specialist partnerships that became part of our practice DNA. It led to a string of celebrated projects including Gladstone Views Primary School that helped transform learning environment design in Victoria and beyond and pioneered project delivery by architects rather than governments.
In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, ClarkeHopkinsClarke was actively involved with the Building the Education Revolution national stimulus initiative, delivering important projects at State, Catholic and Independent schools in suburban and regional areas. Later, ClarkeHopkinsClarke was selected by the Victorian State Government to create 15 Public Private Partnership schools – again, many in outer suburban and coastal towns – boosting community infrastructure and creating flexible activity hubs for new neighbourhoods. Current Partner Wayne Stephens is a past president of Learning Environments Australasia and, like his team, deeply engaged in award-winning design that creates unique environments shaped by each school’s particular pedagogical approach and community needs. Fellow Partner Simon Le Nepveu is working closely with Melbourne University researchers like the Melbourne School of Design’s Dr Ben Cleveland on Building Connections, an Australian Research Council study gathering data about the community impact of schools designed as shared community hubs.
Eltham College led to a string of celebrated projects including Gladstone Views Primary School that helped transform learning environment design in Victoria and beyond and pioneered project delivery by architects rather than governments.
Growth at ClarkeHopkinsClarke has been partly organic and partly strategic. Trusted relationships, inspiring collaborations and invitations too good to refuse led us naturally from homes to schools to community design. But after the recession of the early 1990s the practice consciously diversified to help weather further storms. Hence our embrace of technically challenging healthcare, commercial, mixed use and retail development, inclusive seniors living and care projects, interiors, and large-scale urban design that often involves elements of all these. Throughout this growth and diversity we’ve deliberately maintained focus on people and the communities and environments that nourish and sustain us all.
ClarkeHopkinsClarke has been a carbon neutral practice since 2018 and we advocate and assist our clients and collaborators to do the same. In 2020 we became Australia’s first architecture practice to gain Climate Active certification – a government assessed process and the most robust currently available. We’re active members of Architects Declare, the Australian Institute of Architects, The Association of Consulting Architects, the Design Institute of Australia, The Property Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Design Futures Council and WWF Renewables Nation.
Under the 30-year stewardship of recently retired Partner Robert Goodliffe, ClarkeHopkinsClarke became an informed advocate for all for these organisations, numerous Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, and collective climate action at speed and scale within our industry. A progressive thinker, voracious learner and generous collaborator and mentor, Robert led our Senior Living and Care sector, designed many significant education, residential and community infrastructure projects, oversaw 400% growth in our business, partnered with Deakin University to introduce the CHC Indigenous Pathways Scholarship to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander architecture students, introduced an Indigenous Design Group and an ambitious Reconciliation Action Plan, and left a lasting impact on our practice culture, resilience and ethics.
In 2016 ClarkeHopkinsClarke joined BCorp, now a global movement of more than 4000 certified businesses employing 280,000 people in 77 countries and 153 industries using the power of business to address the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues, from the climate crisis to gender inequity. We recertify regularly, making sure we set and meet ever-more-ambitious goals for ourselves. By 2020 ClarkeHopkinsClarke had entered the Top 5 of BCorps globally, measured against the highest standards of performance, transparency and legal accountability. As one of the largest architectural BCorps in the world, we’re obliged to ensure every decision we make impacts positively. Not just on our bottom line or our client’s portfolios, but also on our workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. Ethical accountability on steroids.
In 2021 we marked our 60th birthday by taking the next step in our evolution as a practice: relocating to Melbourne Connect, a purpose-built innovation precinct on the former Royal Women’s Hospital site in Parkville. We’re thrilled to be anchor-tenants and the only architects invited to join this Property Council A-Grade Building with world-leading ESD credentials including a 6-star Green Star rating, 4.5-star NABRS water rating and 5-star NABRS energy rating and on-site rainwater harvesting and geothermal and solar energy. Led by Melbourne University and Lendlease, Melbourne Connect is a community of world-class researchers, industry, government, startups, students, SMEs and new institutions like Science Gallery Melbourne – all at the intersection of design and emerging technologies and driven to collaborate on socially responsible solutions to our most pressing shared challenges. As a practice determined to use business as a force for good we’ve found our tribe at Melbourne Connect. We’re thriving in a dynamic environment that’s all about elevating our collective impact.
As individuals, we’re all still proudly people people at ClarkeHopkinsClarke. We hire diverse, socially aware creatives who share our values. Hunger for impact. Shape our culture. Like our founders we continue to mentor our team and leaders and promote from within. Partners are hands-on. Teams are agile and non-hierarchical. Leadership is encouraged in everyone.
There have never been any superstars at ClarkeHopkinsClarke. It can mean we fly under the radar in an industry accustomed to high-flyers. That’s okay with us. What we admire most is good people doing great work with humour, humility and heart.