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Sean McGrath Takes A Different Path With Building Design

Portrait of Sean Mcgrath
Building Design student Sean McGrath

The stage is set for the next act in Sean McGrath’s career – switching from musical theatre to architecture.

But the Melbourne Polytechnic student won’t be playing a role, he’ll be a qualified building designer striking out in a new direction. Sean is in his second year of the Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural) and he’s hoping to incorporate his creative side as a stage performer into the new gig. ‘I have a creative / performance / design background, I’ve done a lot of travelling with work, and I’ve lived in many cities around the world,’ he says.

Sean says ‘I’ve always been interested in architecture and inspired by great architecture and urban design.

A New Direction

‘It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I had a few injuries from performing and was looking for a new direction and I really wanted to channel all of my creative energy into something else that I was passionate about.’

He says in his course students apply the theory they learn in class directly to their practical work, ‘right now we are in the middle of a mixed-use project that has commercial, residential and a communal space in High St, Northcote. It feels very much like an actual project that could be going ahead, it’s not just a fictitious experiment, this is something that could well come to fruition.’

Community Focus

The whole class working on that one site and Sean is designing one and two-bedroom apartments and shared spaces - all with a focus on community. ‘My focus in doing architecture is to create communal spaces - a community where people feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.’ Sean says he had heard good things about Melbourne Polytechnic before he enrolled. ‘I have found that the art of studying is a skill in itself, let alone the content that you study, the time management, applying yourself continually trying to keep inspired and motivated.

‘This is far more one-on-one with the teachers than what it would be at university, I feel well guided. I did quite a bit of research in the leadup and I loved that they offer a dual qualification in interiors and architectural building design.’ This means Sean is also studying towards the Certificate IV in Interior Design and Decoration at the same time at the Prahan campus.

Industry-based Teachers

‘It’s really great that a lot of our teachers have worked or are working in industry, they have a lot of contacts and they know first-hand what your strong points are and can lead you in the right direction.

‘This is my only experience with tertiary education and I’ve found it to be incredibly insightful. Having no experience in the building industry I’ve need to absorb a lot of information and I’ve found that my teachers have been really inspiring and they’ve taught me skills that I will need in industry.

So where does Sean see himself in five to 10 years’ time?

‘I would like to be designing intuitive, sustainable, beautiful spaces with a focus on community, equality, affordability - and locally. I’d really like to create work here in Melbourne. I like working as part of a team, collaborating, really bouncing ideas off other people and remaining inspired by everything that’s being created around the world.

Melbourne a Design Leader

‘I think Melbourne is at the forefront of design art culture affordability. I would love to be a part of it. I would love to renovate my home and I think it’s amazing that I have the skills to do that now.

‘I loved the career that I spent a lot of time mastering and so it would be great to potentially have the two work together.’ Sean thinks he can bring his performance experience into his design by ‘building an amphitheatre type space in a communal area, a home studio, renovating a dance studio or a performance space, creating a performance space within a community centre, or a workshop café that people come to repair things away or to create things from scratch or a weekly workshop on a particular.’

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