BROWN Falconer will relocate to the former home of Woodhead in the new year on the back of major project wins including one of Adelaide’s highest profile developments.

The architecture firm was recently chosen to design a new masterplan for the former Balfours site on Franklin St — the firm’s biggest project in its 70-year history.

While continuing to work its traditional sectors of aged care, health and education, the practice is growing its presence in the apartment market following the 2010 merger with David Dawson Architects.

Its 21-level design of a $35 million apartment block at the Queen Adelaide Club site on North Terrace has been approved while construction has kicked off at the former Dreamland site on Grote St, where the firm has designed an $90 million tower comprising 260 apartments.

“One of the reasons for joining forces with David’s team was that it brought together two things — we already had a lot of the retail and commercial expertise but we only had a couple of apartment projects and the two very seldom happen independently anymore,” director Mario Dreosti said.

“So the idea was they would bring apartments and away you go with mixed-use and that seems to be working for us”, Mario comments.

Early concept plans for The Precinct development site on Franklin St include more than 500 apartments across four buildings as well as commercial and retail space.

Close relationships with clients including supermarket giant Woolworths and aged care provider Resthaven offered the firm ongoing work during and after the global financial crisis, Mr Dreosti said, and the company kept on most staff while most competitors made cutbacks.

However, despite a strong pipeline of work for the firm, Mr Dreosti said the architecture industry was still facing significant challenges.

“There’s certainly more activity right at the moment but I’m not sure whether the next two years are going to see that continuously grow.

“I think we’ve got a couple more hiccups to come — we’re certainly not feeling expansionary at the moment.

“Adelaide is still a small enough economy that what government does has a very big impact.

“There is usually a flow of education and health work coming out of government in the smaller scale but that area has been really quiet in the past two years and until government gets active in that medium scale work again that’s going to hold things back.”

Earlier this year, Mr Dreosti represented the Institute of Architects on an advisory group to the expert panel on planning reform. And while rating the state’s planning system as one of the best in the country, he urged the State Government to adopt the panel’s 22 recommendations.

“It’s amazing how far major strategic and planning decisions proceed before anybody with any design training is involved so the notion of involving designers early in the decision making process is a good thing,” he said.

“I think design review has been a really positive initiative and from an architect’s point of view, the talk about embedding design in the process is pretty fundamental.”

Brown Falconer is refurbishing its new Chesser St building, which will be occupied by the firm’s 29 staff following the Christmas closure period.

The firm bought the building together with a private investor earlier this year, 40 years after moving out of the CBD to Maylands.