The Brisbane neighbourhood of Teneriffe is a cacophony of high density residential and commercial off erings occupying a collection of the city’s best preserved, masonry industrial buildings. The enclave is characterised by a swathe of wool stores that were constructed to service the burgeoning wool industry in the early 20th century.
This particular light-filled tenancy, with laneway frontage in the London Woolstore building, is where Alexandra Buchanan Architecture (ABA) Studio now calls home. It is a place chosen by the young architecture practice to reflect its considered efforts to marry contemporary design with historic architecture.
The neighbourhood, as much as the tenancy, has much to offer. Surrounding cafés and public gathering spaces have afforded the practice the luxury of being able to extend their operation and meet with colleagues and clients in a casual way beyond the walls of the tenancy.
The eclectic character of the community has instilled a creative edge to the studio and the century-old brick walls have established a texturally rich, visual backdrop. The bold blue, over-scaled warehouse doors give address to the studio and a particularly alluring laneway presence.
For ABA, the move to new premises represented more than a simple change of scenery. It was the first opportunity the practice had to define its own studio aesthetic, to make a tailored space for working and collaborating and to establish a bespoke setting for client interface.
As it happened, the design process doubled as a team-building exercise, allowing the relatively new staff group to work collaboratively while developing a sense of ownership over the space. A tight budget necessitated the construction of the project to be shared among staff , resulting in a fully integrated fit-out, conceived, documented, sourced and constructed as a team.
The design hinges on the idea of creating two key spaces and instilling in them a high degree of flexibility to ensure that the studio can adapt to various modes of use. Two complementary rooms, one for meeting and one for working, are arranged so that attention is drawn to the centre of the space to encourage sharing of ideas.
This strategy frees up wall space for artwork by Shane Willmett to be exhibited against the raw brickwork. The functional aspect of storage is managed through two open shelf and drawer units, which double as room dividers.
Cork mats soften the white shelf finish and provide a cost-effective and practical surface to support material samples, models and catalogues. The inherent flexibility and functionality of the meeting room is masked by the dramatic, cerulean hues of joinery, wall render and fabric.
Clouds by Kvadrat is the striking three-dimensional textile installation and corner piece that arcs over the space to create a subtle sense of containment.
The textile installation was adapted primarily to screen unsightly power cables, but so captivating are its moody blue hues, it has become the definitive element in the space, directly influencing the colour palette throughout the studio.
A diaphanous curtain in a variant shade of royal blue is employed for visual separation, delivering a ‘domestic’ flourish to the space.
The centrepiece of the workspace is the custom oak workbench, a non-negotiable piece of bespoke furniture that was perhaps the most challenging and rewarding element of the fit-out to deliver.
Limited by a modest budget, the five-person workstation was reimagined several times before it became streamlined to just three elements: the oak top, white powder-coated steel legs, and brass cable tray inlay.
Each element was competitively sourced and put together for a minimal sum and serves as a valuable lesson in how bespoke furniture, when simplified and carefully considered, can be resolved and delivered at a highly competitive price.
In both spaces, a contemporary material palette adds a layer of warmth and tactility. Accents in brass and cork complement oak timbers and white powder-coated surfaces. An abundance of greenery, in pots of all shapes and sizes, adds a simple and uplifting touch.
The addition of a few furniture collectables delivers an unmistakable design-savvy aesthetic with a delightful grouping of Cork Family for Vitra by Jasper Morrison, QT coffee table by Stellar Works and Healey lounge by Walter Knoll creating a dreamy corner and place of repose.
Relocating to an independent studio space in an historic part of town was precisely the move ABA needed to reinvigorate its brand and workplace culture.
It forced the practice to question its working methods and to conceptualise the kind of space that would create a casual place to work and a friendly place for clients to come and discuss ideas. Budget constraints further challenged the process and, in the end, pushed the design to be resolved, as it has, with efficiency, elegance and sophistication.
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