Smart Design Studio
Our new studio is an innovative, sustainable and sculptural building that is purpose-built for who we are and how we work. Both new and renovated facades sit harmoniously with the brick warehouses of this inner-city conservation area, which was built in a time when materials were relatively expensive and labour cheap.
The design embraces the essence of industrial buildings from this precinct. This is both in an aesthetic sense as well as the functionality, economy and innovation that you see in these modest buildings. Visually, this is apparent in the composition of the façade as well as the basic, durable materials such as brick, tiles, galvanised-sheeting and steel-framed windows. Structurally, it embraces the innovation and economy of industrial buildings, with precast concrete slabs, structural brick roof vaults and spindly steel structures. Environmentally, the naturally lit and ventilated studio collects its own water and generates its own power, creating a carbon neutral building.
This building retains most of the existing warehouse and replaces inadequate areas with new structures. The sawtooth roofs, delicate trusses, intact façades, floor and cranes were retained throughout, with the exception of the offices on the western street frontage. This demolished area was rebuilt to new functional requirements, removing unsafe construction, contaminated materials and the bric-a-brac series of additions that have destroyed the integrity of the original design over the past 60 years. For new construction, similar materials as the original construction were employed such as brick façades, expressed precast concrete structure and steel framed windows and doors however expressed and detailed in a contemporary way. Creativity, structural innovation and sculptural form are embraced in the new components.
Large full-length clerestory windows enable light to play a starring role in the single work space, divided by five linear desks for each of the specialist teams. There are freestanding joinery units that double as pin boards on all four sides, and elevated shelves between desks allowing for a collection of study models and materials. The spaces behind these “pinboard cabinets” house four essential functions of the studio: the materials library, model workshop, canteen and reception foyer. A new stair is supported by cables forming balustrades and echoing the structural roof trusses.
The goal was to achieve a six Greenstar rating with the design. A considered approach kept waste to a minimum during construction and now while in operation. The building is energy-positive with 260 roof mounted Photo-voltaic panels, and all materials were selected for their embodied energy, harm to the environment and reuse opportunities. Efficient fixtures and building automation ensures energy efficiency and air conditioning has been replaced by radiant underfloor heating and cooling, ceiling fans and natural cross-ventilation. Other sustainable initiatives include the collection of rainwater for all non-potable consumption, excellent bike and End of Journey facilities for our team and the planting of 13 new trees and nearly 2000 drought tolerant plants in the area.
In addition to the ambitious new structures and bold forms, other elements adopt an industrial ethos however exhibit greater attention to detail than neighbouring properties. For example, the roof retains galvanised roof sheeting, however, has finely detailed flashings, downpipes and overflows as well as integrated photo-voltaic panels.
Over the new workspace is a narrow apartment that runs the length of the building. It’s made from four self-supporting brick catenary vaults that are offset from each other to allow light into the apartment. Inspired by the way that light bleeds between trees, this structure explores how light can seep through the cracks and skim across a surface. With little outlook, it frames views of the sky and street trees and focuses on interior architecture created by stacked bricks and gradations of light.
Apart from galvanised roof sheeting that runs over the stack of unmortared bricks and a thin layer of concrete, there is no structure other than the single row of bricks themselves. All other elements within the apartment such as flooring, fenestration, lighting and joinery are simple and recessive. Most of the furniture and many fixtures and fittings have been custom built for that space in a complementary industrial style.
This project has developed our studio’s ambition to make, test, model and prototype new ideas, structures, technology and compositions. Constructed with durable materials, we hope that this will be our home until at least 2050, and for each element to last until that time.
SMART DESIGN STUDIO ARCHITECTURE FROM THE INSIDE OUT
This article originally appeared in smartdesignstudio.com