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From Student Designer to Director: Stuart Harper joins the COX Directorate

Stuart Harper has risen the ranks in COX’s Melbourne Studio with an exciting promotion to Director.

In 2006, Stuart joined COX as an enthusiastic 3rd year architecture student. Working under the guidance of Director Jonathan Gardiner, Stuart gained experience through a range of transport projects, notably North Melbourne Rail Station, which ended up taking home the State Award for Public Architecture in 2009.

“North Melbourne Rail Station was a special project to work on in that point in my career. I got to see it from early design through to site and completion, instilling a passion for public architecture along the way. And it would just so happen that the first project I worked on won an AIA award which got me a bit excited… I thought it was that easy!” said Stuart.

Starting as a full-time grad in 2009, Stuart soon discovered a love of sports architecture, heading to South Australia to work on the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment in 2010.

“It was my first time living and breathing a project, it was a wonderful experience. When you’re away from home, pouring yourself into a project, you get a level of depth and understanding of the work, and perhaps a level of care, that you haven’t experienced before.”

Upon wrapping up his time on Adelaide Oval, Stuart thought he would be going back home to Melbourne permanently, but then the phone rang. This time it was Director Alastair Richardson, asking if he was interested in heading west to work on the Optus Stadium bid.

“At this point I had really found my groove in sports architecture, so when I got the call to head across to Perth, I knew the answer had to be yes. It was this project that really taught me the ins and outs of what makes up exceptional sporting stadia, learning everything from the importance of sight lines to façade design.”


At this point it’s 2015, Stuart is an Associate, and his work on the Prix Versailles winning Optus Stadium has ended. Throughout the project, he had built a strong rapport with the team at HKS, Inc., and once again found himself packing his bags to work on sports projects. This time, the flight was a little longer, heading to Texas for an exchange program.

“The six months I spent in Dallas taught me a lot, not just about how HKS works or sports architecture, but about me. I visited a bunch of cool places and made friends that I keep in touch with to this day. Landing back in Australia, I knew sport was a speciality that I wanted to follow.”

Shortly after returning from America, Stuart left the practice for 18 months, returning to COX to play a critical role in the Sydney Football Stadium (now Allianz Stadium) project.

“As games get played at the stadium, and the public shows an outpouring of love for it, you can’t help but stand back and feel immense pride. It’s why I love this sector of architecture so much.”

In 2022, Stuart continues to lead public/sports sector projects, including State Basketball Centre and the Richmond Football Club’s home ground at Punt Road Oval. For him, successful architecture is all about finding the balance between beauty and experience.


COX Director, Stuart Harper

When you talk about architecture, you can go one way and say it’s all about sculpture and design (and as designers we all know that’s fun to do!). But we don’t live in a world of objects, we live in a world of people. So, then you could go the other way, saying it’s all about experience and function. For me, I find the most excitement in the middle. My biggest passion as an architect is to create beautiful places that support and celebrate the diversity of public life.

Over the past 16 years, Stuart has proven himself as a strong leader with a broad influence across the culture of COX, as well as a highly skilled architect who contributes to winning and delivering world-class projects. It was only natural for Stu’s career at COX to take the next step, and we hope you will join us in congratulating him on this achievement.


Optus Stadium

Burswood, Western Australia

Allianz Stadium Redevelopment

Sydney, New South Wales

Adelaide Oval Redevelopment

North Adelaide, South Australia

North Melbourne Rail Station

Melbourne, Victoria