As an ambitious architecture student from Hyderabad, in India’s southeast, Kash Rangan dreamt of one day visiting Australia to see its most iconic symbol – the Sydney Opera House.
That dream came to fruition in 2000 when Kash was admitted to the coveted Master of Urban Development & Design course at the University of NSW in Sydney.
The experience of the Opera House, and the rest of the city, has captivated Kash ever since, so much so that he never returned to his homeland.
“I fell in love with the Opera House as an environmental piece of art,” he remembers.
“I spent many nights on the foreshore with my friends, and often sketching. Along with the Harbour Bridge, the Sydney skyline and the foreshore, it forms a landmark at the edge of the Bennelong peninsula and creates a dynamic aesthetic to the cityscape.
“What amazes me is that Sydney is an accidental city, without a traditional grid formation that is more apparent in modern cities. What’s also unique is its topography and natural features, which together with its built form, make for a fascinating experience.”
Since then, Kash has himself made substantial contributions to the urban design of Sydney, and beyond.
As the recently promoted Director of Infrastructure at CM+ and a veteran of the firm, Kash has worked on a range of large-scale projects.
Some of his recent favourites include: the Batemans Bay Bridge on the NSW South Coast (which took elements from the historic bridge and reinstated its legacy in a contemporary way), the WestConnex M4-M5 Link Tunnels and the Sydney Gateway.
“The beauty of all our projects is that they have been underpinned with a greater vision. Infrastructure is not just about getting people from A to B, but the whole user experience and how we can provide opportunities for interesting things to happen along this journey,” Kash explains.
“In the case of the Sydney Gateway, which is still being built, we’re bringing in a sense of Connection to Country. This is important when entering a global city in Australia.”
What’s intriguing is how much infrastructure plays a role in our lives. At times, it’s obvious why something built becomes iconic (like the Opera House). At others, we may not be aware of the deeper meaning behind a built form, but are nonetheless influenced by it.
“Infrastructure helps bring people and places together,” Kash says. “We’re always thinking about how we are able to contribute to the betterment of a space through the journey of the user experience.”
Since taking the lead on Infrastructure, Kash has stepped up his external facing work (lots of phone calls and meetings), while coordinating complex projects and managing multidisciplinary teams.
What he enjoys most is what has fuelled him from day one: passion, honesty and the adventure of constant learning.
“I was always interested in paradoxes and the contrary side of things. I wanted to try and do ordinary things in an extraordinary way. That’s really what brought me to this field,” Kash says.
This approach has aligned Kash perfectly to his mentors, the visionary founders of CM+, Darrel Conybeare and Bill Morrison and Design Director, Dick Nugent.
To this day, Kash’s first meeting with Bill and Darrel (for a job interview in late 2000) is etched in his mind.
“It was memorable because I brought with me a long five-metre drawing, instead of a portfolio. The table in the meeting room wasn’t long enough, so I laid it on the ground. The drawing was an elevation of Campbell Parade, with sketches of all the major buildings in Sydney on top,” he recalls.
“What I sensed in Bill and Darrel at the time hasn’t changed to this day. It was their gentlemanly nature and having a sense of ‘welcome-ness’ to people, which makes one feel at ease to be oneself.”
Kash says the founding directors have created a legacy of forward thinking at CM+.
This spirit of innovation is given breath through regular face-to-face brainstorms and a horizontal structure where fresh ideas are sought from all. The firm is also keen to embrace change while remaining true to its original values.
“Bill and Darrel started from the macro and grew into the micro, which was not a traditional norm for an architectural practice. They had the vision to contribute on the large scale, and to think beyond rather than within,” Kash says.
“A road is never just a road. A railway is never just a railway. They are elements to bring people and places together. That has become the firm’s greatest niche.”