A modern-day Renaissance man
Jim Flook has never stopped learning.
The architect and property professional holds an undergraduate degree in architecture from UNSW, a Diploma in Business (Real Estate Management) through the Real Estate Institute of NSW and an advanced management qualification from Macquarie University’s Graduate School of Management. In 2018, he completed a Master of Property Development at UTS.
And if that’s not enough, he’s also building an emerging secondary career as a sculptor in his spare time. Outside his property consulting/development business, he’s studied drawing, painting, printmaking, welding and stonemasonry, all of which feeds his passion for sculpture.
“I’m following the Renaissance man traditions of apprentice, journeyman and then becoming a master of my professional and artistic skills,” he says.
“I’m committed to using all of these skills and insights to understand how, through careful integration of art, architect and place-making, we might improve and strengthen our connection to our built environment.”
This commitment to lifelong learning in both work and art is the philosophy by which Flook lives his life – and it’s paying some pretty handsome dividends. As an architecture graduate, Flook started out in a facilities management role at IBM, managing new fitouts for existing buildings and construction processes for new builds, as well overseeing leasing and property management.
I’m committed to using all of these skills and insights to ... improve and strengthen our connection to our built environment.
The job took him to Hong Kong where he worked on integrating the company’s facilities strategy into its business strategy across 10 countries in the Asia Pacific. In 1992, he returned to Australia and launched Facilities Project Management, his first company.
“I’d always wanted to have my own business, so I thought, well, here’s an opportunity,” he says.
“There were a lot of organisations that were of a size that they didn’t have their own in-house property professionals. I basically became an outsourced property person that could help them find buildings to purchase, organise leases, and manage fit-outs, facilities and organisational change requirements.”
The business was successful for 22 years, but creeping changes to the property sector saw many of the big real estate firms start expanding their expertise. Where once they’d been limited to buying, selling and leasing, a number of agencies soon expanded to include the services on offer at Facilities Project Management.
It was time to pivot. Flook took himself back to the proverbial drawing board, searching for the intersection between his uniquely multidisciplinary skill set and the key components of the property deal process. Not long after, Facilities Project Management was re-engineered to become Greenway Property Group, complete with a new proposition for the marketplace.
Through Greenway, Flook now offers strategic property advice and buyer’s agent services. He and his team help clients to source residential and commercial property, and they also provide property development research services to identify value-add opportunities and to mitigate risk.
This unique approach soon caught the attention of the Institute of Architects, who asked Flook to give a presentation to its members about the benefits of property development consulting services. The process brought him into contact with Associate Professor Vince Mangioni; after the presentation, Mangioni suggested that Flook might be a good fit for the UTS Master of Property Management degree.
“I went and spoke to UTS about the property development course; a number of the subjects offered high level specialist knowledge I was interested in. I thought having a property development masters could give more credibility to what I’ve already been doing,” Flook says.
In addition to gaining updated skills in planning, market risk analysis, modelling, spatial planning, sustainability, value add divestment and strategic asset allocation, among others, Flook says he benefited from having access to specialist academic expertise and to senior industry experts working in the property sector. The course also helped him meet his ongoing professional requirement to complete an annual allocation of continuous professional development.
Professional development is one thing, but outside the office, Flook is applying that same voracious work ethic to an increasingly successful secondary career as a sculptor. It’s a field of creative endeavour that he’s been passionate about since he won the Cranbrook Sculpture Prize in his last year at school.
And this is more than just the tinkering of a hobbyist in a backyard shed – in 2018, he had a piece called ‘Swerve One’ accepted into the world-famous Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in Bondi and the 2019 Sculpture by the Sea in Cottesloe, where he was a finalist.
The work, which was 3.8 metres long and 2.4 metres high, was constructed using nearly a tonne of steel painted bright orange. Inspired by life’s complexities, the sculpture – despite its massive weight – looked like a curl of ribbon blowing in the breeze. It was constructed in sections using a 65-tonne industrial press before being welded together.
“This piece of work is the culmination of over five months in the making and is the most demanding work I’ve ever completed, financially, physical and mentally,” Flook says.
While he may seem like a man who’s living two entirely separate lives, there’s actually a great deal of crossover between his professional and artistic practices. A sculpting career requires significant financial commitment, as well as technical skill. It’s also an art form that requires an acute understanding of space, place making, and project management, particularly for large commissioned works.
In the end, it’s the concept of balance that sits at the heart of Flook’s many endeavours.
“My artistic practice is very organic, playful and expressive, which is in complete contrast to my structured property development work,” he says.
“Essentially, I’m a very organised person who tries to have a balanced life. I am energised and inspired by continuous learning and travelling.”
Learn more about the UTS Master of Property Development.