The project is a refurbishment of a circa 1900 Victorian era boot making factory and home to a firm of young architects. As a refurbishment, the design response was concerned with how the fabric of the original structure could inform the solution. As an open plan warehouse, we explored whether a connection could exist between the way the building was used originally and the way it needs to meet our requirements. The clear span nature of the structure at first floor provided an uninterrupted 11x12m floor plate. In early times this was an open layout area for work benches. The requirements of contemporary planning for commercial office space are similar. As architects, we work in an open studio. The nature of our activities must be tuned to function, adaptation to change and flexibility. We must be able to shrink or expand easily and quickly. This provided an integrated response in connection to contemporary thinking and regulated how each floor may be resolved.
Over both floors, the open plan spaces were dissected by the insertion of timber clad volumes. These volumes, freestanding cubic forms within the space were clad in recycled hardwood flooring. We arranged the boxes to act like walls, separating the functional spaces of the office, whilst becoming more than a wall, a container for services (wc/kitchen/storage/conference) within themselves. The manner in which these forms touch the existing building is significant to this idea and is suggestive of contemporary design practice as opposed to a traditional method of carving the entire space into a series of smaller rooms.
The use of the space is broad, not just an office, but a showroom and display area for our own furniture and an example of how materials can be juxtaposed. The office was a place to test ideas. Places where clients can touch, feel, experience and evaluate. This could also be a place for artists to show work, a gallery, a cultural venue. We consider that the ideas of multi-function, flexibility, adaptation and open space planning to be fundamental to contemporary design practice.