After outgrowing their offices, instead of moving or building anew the designers came up with a creative solution that references their long history on the site - fire damage and all.
The experiment makes efficient use of otherwise empty space in this dense urban setting and interestingly contrasts the ultramodern with the charred stud framing and original brickwork.
Create a new office space by merging structures on the site to form one seamless, contained interior unit. Preserve a record of the architectural history of the house and workers cottage on the land by incorporating raw and untouched elements of these two buildings into the new design, while leaving the existing outer façades of each in place and intact.
Reclaim unused land for productive use, and build a comfortable, intimate office complex that allows employees of the company to collaborate easily on one interconnected floor.
The solution was to create smaller workstations so that all staff were on one floor working intimately and collaboratively. Additional area was acquired by expanding into the adjacent 1860s workers cottage separated from the original office by an 1800mm gap.
In Queensland, the detached house often creates an almost unusable space on its side boundaries. The practice wanted to shift from the existing strong association with the residence and play with the idea of developing a distinct entrance and organising elements around the often-neglected space between the two buildings.
The new inserted piece now completely envelops the façade of both buildings and allows their history to be clearly legible. The charred remains of the burned timber frame were revealed and celebrated as a direct connection back to the practice’s 1981 fire.
The original brick chimney of the cottage, which once supported a corrugated kitchen lean-to, stands now as an isolated sentinel. New openings in the crumbly brick and mortar of the adjacent 1864 workers’ cottage were left unpaid and raw to articulate where the fabric was modified.
This newly inserted space attends to the longstanding problem of having a formal front door on a lower level and an isolated upper level and rear door, which was used by staff, trade reps, consultants, and familiar clients to enter from the car park. The sequential movement through this space constantly reveals other spaces and opens up views to other parts of the office.
From the street, the original buildings are mostly intact. One of the major challenges for building under the high-set ‘Queenslander’ is that it always appears that space has been awkwardly shoved under and in. The addition of a considerable amount of glass to this level could have exacerbated this effect, but instead it is tempered with a reinterpretation of the battened ‘skirt’ used in the past to screen these buildings’ exposed underbelly.
The inserted element is bookended with structural glazing after the fire has been revealed and celebrated and now forms a visual open screen between the two buildings. The original brickwork of the old workers cottage has been repainted but left raw where it indicates the remnant lean-to roof or walls, or else where there has been recent intervention.
Steel handrails are designed to be as transparent as possible. Minimally engineered by the architects because they could afford to take a risk and experiment, 10mm rods are chem.-set into the floor and cantilevered to a 10 by 30mm top plate.
A new kitchen, in the same location as the original workers’ cottage kitchen, opens onto the courtyard, which provides the perfect break-out space and can accommodate the whole staff for social events.
This two storey high external covered courtyard is bathed in natural light and ventilation. Although it has a sense of ‘other office worldliness’ the space is still visually connected.
The outdoor room has been excavated into rock with a vertical fern wall, ceiling-ed with opaque Ampelite panels, encased with glass on one side and screened on the other with the same white lattice effect featured on the building’s front façade.
• 2011 AIA Queensland Awards - Scott & Hayes Award for Small Project Architecture
• 2011 Australian Interior Design Awards - Award for Corporate Design
• 2011 Australian Interior Design Awards - Best in State Commercial Design
• 2011 Interior Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) - Commercial under 1000sqm
SUMMARY OF ACHIEVEMENTS
The core of this project is the development of techniques for reclaiming previously unusable areas of land, while also finding ways to convert seemingly useless structures into support areas for a brand new building.
Eschewing trendy approaches in design, Wilson Architects have instead incorporated existing qualities and features of their site into a new superstructure that looks thoroughly modern yet still helps to preserve the historical fabric of a particular pocket of greater Brisbane.
The principal transformation in urban ecology remains largely in its nascent stages, but the designers of the new Wilson Architect’s Office have made a great leap forward in this burgeoning field by recycling land and already-existing building materials in a highly creative way.
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STEEL DETAIL PAINT
GENERAL OFFICE-SPACE PAINT
CORIAN COUNTER LAMINEX
STONEHOUSE CREATIONS BEAU GREY SANDSTONE
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BORAL SPOTTED GUM TONGUE AND GROOVE/VENEER
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