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    Breaking down barriers with design

    Deborah Singerman

    Living Edge’s new headquarters at The Woolstores, Alexandria are an essay in spaciousness – space, space and more enveloping space. Having recently enjoyed the new shops at the Macquarie Centre in Sydney’s north-west, I can guarantee that deep-lying structures entice you in until you are drifting as if in a haze.

    Admittedly, with a crowd of several hundred designers, architects, suppliers and makers at February’s showroom launch, it was more wending than drifting your way through the Woods Bagot-designed restored, original timber structure, but it was beguiling nonetheless.

    Stained American Oak contrasts with concrete and base building timbers in the imposing 1,900 square metres, almost a townhouse complex. The elegant fit-out displays national and international furniture brands in line with Living Edge’s vision “for the next 5-10 years ... to become a leader in what we do, bringing world-class brands – world class in terms of quality, service and design, not to mention reputation – into this country in a way that is commensurate with the quality of the people we represent,” director Aidan Mawhinney told Indesign.

    Living Edge's new headquarters by Woods Bagot

    Showing their support, the CEOs of Herman Miller and Walter Knoll, and founders of E15 and La Chance, were there, while other furniture and lighting was on show such as Louis Poulsen, Established & Sons, Stellar Works, BassamFellows, Buster + Punch and Rich Brilliant Willing.  

    Ground floor pods are discretely delineated by rugs, low tables, a huge variety of chairs and stools with shapely bottoms, of shelving too and wall fittings (they will cater well for the numerous units in this neighbourhood). It is all muted greys, browns and charcoals with splashes of colour, even in the sweeping dessert spread of exquisite mousse cups, berry concoctions and fresh strawberries.

    Mawhinney has said the company wants to service more than its traditional “architectural and design community” to reach “the increasing desire for high-end products within other Australian spaces from banks to home offices”.  It looks like it is heading in the right direction.

    Woods Bagot Head of Interiors Todd Hammond says the design at Living Edge's new headquarters endeavoured to immerse visitors into the living environments established by its products. Photography by Trevor Mein

    Another example that seeks to break down barriers is ‘Revival: A Journey of Design’, an exhibition of architecture and urban planning projects from International Architecture Platform Australia (IAPA) that is also looking at the national and international, historical and modern (Museum of Contemporary Art, 24 February). The first time exhibited outside of China, this journey is of 30 years of building reform and change in China.

    There is also a symposium, Rediscovering the Oriental in the West (I am still taken aback by the term the Orient).

    “The intent of this exhibition and event is to strengthen interaction between South-China and Australian architects, creating a platform for idea (sic) exchange and dialogue, as well as unfolding an open discussion regarding the transforming design context of modern China,” says IAPA founder and principal architect, Paul Peng.

    Tony Chenchow and Stephanie Little (of Chenchow Little) will also be speaking. “This exhibition engages the Australian design community with unique projects from IAPA that explore ways in which cultural heritage can be celebrated while still advancing contemporary practice,” Chenchow says.

    With Chinese New Year celebrations in full swing, and the Sydney Morning Herald able reporting that there are 10 suburbs in Sydney with over 30 per cent Chinese ancestry, this seems to be part of what is an inevitable progression towards ties that bind. 

    Deborah Singerman runs her own writing, editing and project managing consultancy specialising in the urban built environment and community.  @deborahsingerma

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