Designer Gavin Harris' Career Stretches from Robotic Dinosaurs to an Iconic Table Design - Urban Hyve

You might wonder what dinosaurs and design have in common – the answer is Futurespace design director Gavin Harris, who is equally at home working on rugs, interiors and products, and whose large and varied oeuvre of more than 20 years in Australia and Europe includes artificial Jurassic Park-like settings.

When the recession hit Australia in the early 1990s, Harris put his credentials and his childhood dinosaur obsession to good use, working for a Brisbane-based company that made artificial environments for natural history museums.

He spent more than a year working on sculpting scale model dinosaurs for the museum displays, one of which has travelled the world with him and now has pride of place in his living room.

“We made artificial rainforests, robotic dinosaurs, rocks, trees; we worked with zoologists and palaeontologists,” Harris told Indesignlive back in 2011.

He says it was a great job, totally out of left field – “still design I suppose, but [incorporating] some of my passion as a kid”.

Harris was educated at the University of Queensland, graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Built Environment. He became involved in Activity Based Working (ABW) before it even had a label. A job in London with Mackay and Partners, a firm whose portfolio included an impressive 70,000 square metre space for pharmaceutical company Merck Serono, and a fitout for Deloitte Consulting, both being prime examples of ABW.

While in London, he also worked closely with the Renzo Piano Design Workshop team on the interior design and facade detailing of the Central St Giles Development; a high-end multi-unit residential development in central London.
Work in Australia with Bligh Voller (now BVN) and Woods Bagot on everything from call centres to corporate fitouts, restaurants, and hotels followed the designer’s London stint.

In 2009, Harris joined Futurespace’s Sydney office as Senior Associate, after working as a partner in a successful London design practice producing significant workplace and hospitality projects throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and Africa.
His experience became a great asset to Futurespace, an architectural and design consultancy that delivers environments of the future for workplace, education, childcare and healthcare environments; a company eager to take up innovative ways of working.

He says Australia is advanced in ABW and in open planning. Futurespace’s work includes corporate fitouts for John Holland, Jones Lang Lasalle, McCann CMG advertising and Microsoft – multi-level, multi-use spaces adopting the concepts of activity-based working.

Harris won a competition run by London lighting company Whitegoods for his design, Line of Light. He wanted a light that you didn’t see; something that was very simple. At the time, there wasn’t anything like it, so he made it almost disappear like a blade.

In 2014, Harris was awarded the Professional Prize of $20,000 for his Japanese-inspired freestanding bath unit, Shiro. The judging panel applauded Harris’ clever incorporation of a basin and bath, use of a singular plumbing system, its freestanding qualities and suitability for stylish, modern homes and hotels.

He was a finalist in the 2015 Australian Furniture Design Award for a chair he designed.

The talented interior designer has diverse expertise in both interiors and industrial design projects and believes design is important on many levels; “from the functional necessity of assisting businesses reaching their aims and aspirations, to creating an environment that enhances quality of life, to the satisfaction of designing a place that is beyond expectation, leaving a client feeling valued and understood”.
To Harris’ way of thinking, interior design informs product design, and the reverse is also true. He believes in the traditional role of the architect/designer who has a hand in every element of a project, including the graphic treatment, furniture, accessories, door hardware and more. Harris also likes to include an element of surprise in his work; a touch of the unexpected.

The interior projects he produces are always a result of working with a client to meet their brief and he believes in a bespoke approach to many parts of his work, often using systems and componentry to create a new, tailored design solution.

Back in 2010, as a keen product designer, Harris won Designer Rugs’ Evolve competition for his ’Squiggle It’ rug and also Corporate Culture’s Design Journey for his ‘Takushi’ timber table. The table was developed with a steel leg suitable for commercial use and is available in Australia through Corporate Culture.

In ancient Japan Takushi meant ‘table’ but Harris’ design is no mere table. The legs, which are not attached to the corners but are curved and angled to reach under the table top, create the impression of the table top appearing to float.

The timber version of the leg is able to incorporate a positive/negative knuckle joint which allows the unit to be flat packed for easier shipping and is available in Australia through Anibou. The table is also suitable for use in homes, conference areas and as both a work and office table.

The piece has now joined the ranks of some of the most respected product designs in the world.

Sources: (takushi table)

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