Contemporary sculpture, office or residence?

Edition Office architect’s fit-out of an office/residence in Cambridge Street, Collingwood. Photo: Ross HoneysettLocated in an early 20th century building in Cambridge Street, Collingwood, this “hybrid” space is a residence and office.
Nanjing Night Net

Designed by Edition Office (formerly Room 11 Melbourne), the unusual fit-out could almost be compared to contemporary sculpture.

“It was an unusual brief, with our clients wanting both a place to live and also operate their business,” says Edition Office’s design director Aaron Roberts, who worked closely with co-director, architect Kim Bridgland and architect Georgia Nowak.

The clients were keen to use architecture to brand their business, Raft Studio, a branding and identity company, which also orchestrates campaign strategies.

Formerly a conventional two-bedroom apartment, Edition Office completely gutted the interior, retaining only a couple of structural columns. With the timber floors painted black and the bagged-brick walls painted white, the designers could then proceed with almost a completely blank canvas.

“Our brief was to maximise the space (approximately 185 square metres) and make the most of the high ceilings (3 metres).

The ground-floor space, leading to a south-facing courtyard, features one simple – yet at the same time complex – black steel form, immediately past the front door. Segmented into two by a brass “skin” of walls, floor and ceiling, the elegant form was partially inspired by the work of American sculptor Donald Judd. This passage conceals a bathroom and separate toilet, all lined in black tiles.

The rectangular form, which includes 21 steel doors, has been cleverly divided into two flexible spaces. These spaces can be used as bedrooms, or alternatively as two enclosed meeting rooms. Given there’s no apertures within either “cone of silence”, doors are generally left ajar.

When the doors are fully closed like a shut suitcase, the form becomes sculpture. But when the doors are left open, the possible functions become more apparent. On one side of the form, for example, there are built-in shelves painted a fleshy-red colour.

This nook also contains the fridge and pantry. On the side of the entrance are built-in cupboards for storage. “We saw this design like an animal, with skin represented as a series of layers,” says Roberts, pointing out the fine brass layer inserted behind each steel door. “You could compare the red walls to flesh if you want to be more literal.”

As with most apartments, there’s a central island bench. However, this bench is significantly longer at 6.2 metres and is a combination of marble (with a faint red vein throughout) and stained black timber.

“We designed this bench so it could be used for meals or, alternatively, for informal meeting,” says Bridgland. Presently, half the open plan space is used as an office, with the other half as a lounge area. “The areas are loosely delineated. The space changes depending on the time of day,” says Roberts.

The devil is in the detail is a catch-cry of many architects. And in the case of the fit-out for Raft Studio this goes well beyond the usual. There are no door handles, for example, on any of the doors. Instead, magnetised handles are picked up from the floor or a benchtop and attached to the steel when doors need to be opened or closed.

The entirely black-lined second meeting room is wrapped by a steel shelf. When doors are left open, in the case of the red room, there’s a wonderful wash of red on people’s faces as they enter or leave.

As people’s workspaces change, designs such as this one may become more commonplace. However, as with changes in office design moving to non-fixed workstations, such paradigm shifts take time to be accepted. “We were fortunate our clients could see our vision, one that’s extremely pared back.

“But paring back and simplifying the essential details allows this large space to be fully appreciated,” adds Roberts.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.