DT: So is that your scope? Is it only Australian projects that you personally will be involved in, or do you work on a group level?
MM: Well I'm group managing partner for three years, which means I’m responsible for the performance of the group as a whole. I’m responsible for the performance of LA, New York, London, Dubai, Melbourne and Sydney, so I'm kind of trying to help the managing partners. I basically chair our operational group which meets every couple of weeks just to make sure that we are we running things properly and also some other initiatives, so that's going to be two or three days a week. Then I spend two or three days doing projects. I know my remit here is not just infrastructure but to try and look beyond and I'm trying to optimise our foreign or international work effectively. We tried to bring some things into place where we can really look a bit more broadly at the work we win.
We just recently won an airport in India. India is a good place for us to look, with a lot of high-speed rail and some more infrastructure things there. (Bird noises off) Sorry, I’m sitting outside on the veranda – there’s no kookaburras yet…
DT: Yes, it sounds very nice!
MM: …so we are looking abroad. Obviously, all of our offices, bar Australia probably, have all been hit pretty hard by the effects of Covid, but we are trying to build up our resilience by looking further afield and looking into those markets which are more open and more active.
DT: You mentioned an airport. How do you view aviation, going forward? And also, as a sub-question to that: there's been a bit of flak attached to airport designers from Architects Declare and others. Do you have any views on that?
MM: Yeah: I mean, we think that designing airports can be done in a net zero carbon way. We can look after decarbonizing the estates, which I think is really important. Aviation has a lot of benefits and actually it only contributes 3% of the greenhouse gases. I'm not saying: ‘so therefore it's not bad’, but the use of concrete is 6%; and housing generally is 40% of the contribution of the built environment. I think it's become a kind of virtue-signalling, easy thing for people who raise a couple of lintels in Shoreditch to point at and say: ‘well, we shouldn't design airports’. You're never going to design airports, so obviously it’s really easy for you to say let's not design airports. But actually, if you look at some African countries, they rely upon the tourism that aviation brings, and I just think it's incredibly short-sighted. We've got to be looking at every single aspect of it, and I believe that abstinence isn't the answer. It’s what Grimshaw thinks about the future, and then the technology will help solve that. And if we can decarbonize the estates then the aviation industry – which is probably more motivated than any industry in the world to begin to use different fuels and choose different design technologies to lower the carbon – then I think spending our carbon on that is probably a good thing to do.
DT: Fair enough. Last couple of questions. Aside from your beloved Fulham Football club getting into Europe, what are your hopes for 2021 in general? In, let's say, two or three hopes?
MM: What I would hope is, first and foremost, that life can return to normal. That we can begin to travel again, and we can begin to meet our friends and colleagues from around the world. I would really like that to happen. I think that we should also reflect and learn on this experience. I'm hoping that the strides we've made certainly looking after staff and the health and wellbeing of our stuff and trying to look them as they've been doing lots of hours, working at home and the remote working, and we can come to a better kind of arrangement. So hopefully it’s going to help those things.
I hope we win more work internationally from a very practical perspective. I think our American offices have been really hit quite hard, as America has, and I would like to see them come back, firing on all cylinders. And on a very personal level I would just like to be able to get back to London and, as you say, go to The Cottage and see a Fulham game. That would be amazing. I haven't seen a Fulham game for a long time and actually we’re doing reasonably well at the minute, for our lowly status.
DT: Well, good luck with that, and good luck with the rest of your time over there. Have you got a fixed stay, or you open ended?
MM: No, we're looking to make a life here. Obviously, I've got a three-year term as a group managing partner, so I'll be backwards and forwards to London. We will always have a place in London, but we want to try and make a life here in Australia. It's a wonderful country; there's a lot of a lot of opportunity here, certainly for us. Our Australian businesses will be 40% of our business next year so it's a big market for us. And if we can begin to look into South East Asia, maybe utilise our geographical position a bit better I think all the better for us. So I'm really looking forward to that and being at the forefront of those things. But I'll be backwards and forwards. I am British and I’m not going to get away from that. Well, I’m a Yorkshireman…
DT: (laughs) A bit better! Well, I hope to bump into you in another party in Sydney – which was where I first met you – sometime soon…
MM: Yeah, we first met you on Circular Quay.
DT: That’s it.
MM: Yeah, I hope to meet you again there soon!
DT: Okay, cheers Mark!
MM: See you soon. Cheers. Bye!