Phillip Nielsen & Aaron Nicholls

Regional Design Service

The delivery of meaningful, thought-provoking and sustainable design outcomes for Australia’s rural and regional communities is the primary focus of Regional Design Service. Based in the Australian town of Corowa, on the New South Wales side of the state border with Victoria, the architecture and design studio was established with a project in the town. In its first year (2017), Regional Design service secured 15 commissions – and so the indications of demand were there for architecture and architectural strategy in regional Australia.

Many of the studio’s projects don’t result in ‘architecture’ per se – for example, feasibility studies, master plans and placemaking. One of the most meaningful projects to date involved research and justification for the construction of a public toilet in a highway-adjacent community, where travellers knock on doors looking for a bathroom. Pro-bono work involves assisting community groups with scoping grant proposals correctly and arming them with an understanding of current construction and professional services costs.

Design Director and architect Phillip Nielsen and Director of Business Aaron Nicholls are driven to cultivate community awareness of design and how it can enrich all facets of rural and regional life. They place significant emphasis on actively engaging with a cross-section of community groups via delivery of events and exhibitions spanning a range of topics – from movements in design, to ideas with landscape architecture. Their passion for education and advocacy results in events that focus on sharing the value, process and context of design.

Says Phillip, “Too often we witness delivery of substandard or ‘adequate’ projects to rural and regional communities, rather than those which engage and enable users – such as those we see in urban areas. This is because architecture is often designed and delivered to an engineering model, rather than one pertinent to the project at hand. Based on our experience of establishing a design studio in a country town, one of the most effective ways of enabling a community is showing presence, fronting up and having an open-door policy.”

Photography of Regional Design Service (L-R: Phillip Nielsen and Aaron Nicholls) by Georgie James, Bangerang Amenities (2019) by Georgie James and Phillip Nielsen, Plan Rand (2019, in collaboration with Studio Scerri) by Regional Design Service, Regional Design Service Studio and Gallery (2019) by Georgie James and Phillip Nielsen, Rural City of Wangaratta – Rural Placemaking Project (2018, in collaboration with Projectura) by Regional Design Service, and Wahgunyah House (2019) by Georgie James.