Cumulus Studio’s newest addition to its portfolio includes the forecourt café and bar, Protagonist, opened at the Arts Centre Melbourne (ACM) in November 2019.

On the back of winning the Arts Centre Melbourne’s 2018 design competition, the ACM’s aim was to reimagine the aging Cento, to create a unique and memorable food and beverage offer.

The venue intended to welcome all, from passing foot traffic, to the school kids and eager theatregoers. Its humble beginnings as a portable coffee cart were to marry an accommodation for its adjacent art institutions.

Settling into the monumental architectural context, the statement of the café and bar’s opening gesture approaches its neighbours with solidarity, not exclusively in material, but also in design.

The material itself, Kaynemaile, a polycarbonate chainmail mesh, is a secure, fire and UV resistant product originally developed for the Lord of the Rings movies costumes.

Cumulus’ key entry point for visitors struck balance through its bronze mesh exterior reminiscent of folding theatre curtains, most fittingly, in front of the ACM.

Adaptable to be raised in the morning, or partially closed for private events, the mesh exterior is aimed to be a welcoming, or secure compound.

The multi-purpose veil can be used for art projection, marketing of upcoming ACM events and lighting to activate the precinct at night.

With the Protagonist shell’s key references in form and palette nodding to the bronze NGV roof, it also pays homage to its endorser, the ACM’s spire.

Permanent in its promise of modest grandeur, but semi-temporary in construction, Protagonist’s new menu will extend its congruent innovation to a multiculturally influenced menu from the produce of local growers and suppliers.

Executive director, customer experience of Arts Centre Melbourne, Beau Vigushin says Protagonist is a new, dramatic and sophisticated addition to the experience at Arts Centre Melbourne.

“A visitor’s experience at Arts Centre Melbourne doesn’t begin and end when the curtain goes up or down. It starts from the moment they walk on the forecourt and continues right through to the standing ovation.”