Mesh curtains from Kaynemaile™ were used to create a visual connection between an iconic cafe and a heritage theatre building in Melbourne during a redesign project.

Protagonist cafe and bar is nestled in the historic arts precinct on St Kilda Road in Melbourne, adjacent to the National Gallery of Victoria and the State Theatre. Cumulus Studio, which won the Arts Centre Melbourne’s design competition in April 2018 to redesign the iconic but ageing cafe, was required to create a unique and memorable cafe on par with the best in Melbourne.

The design brief sought to create a relationship between the cafe and Arts Centre Melbourne’s Theatres Building, a site of important heritage value. The design also needed to establish the cafe’s unique identity without competing with, challenging or obstructing views to the Theatres Building.

Cumulus Studio used theatre inspired curtains made of bronze Kaynemaile mesh to completely enclose the cafe. The curtains are raised during cafe opening hours using a system of cables that sit under the canopy and then lowered when the cafe is closed at night.

"Protagonist is wrapped by a chainmail curtain, which physically opens and closes each day, inspired by the curtain and fly tower within Arts Centre Melbourne's theatres. The colour is a reference to the centre's landmark spire,’’ Cumulus Studio director Keith Westbrook explained.

The Kaynemaile mesh not only provides a bold and eye-catching surround for the cafe but also forms a screen at night on which visuals can be projected to market upcoming events.

Kaynemaile’s fire and UV resistant polycarbonate mesh made it an obvious choice for this project. The strength and durability of Kaynemaile were crucial to enable the screen to be regularly raised and lowered.

Creating the giant café shaped liftable screen was challenging but Kaynemaile’s collaborative approach at the design stage ensured the concept could be realised.

Kaynemaile’s special project manager, Aaron Te One describes the team’s approach: “The concept seemed straightforward enough. Once we had quickly prototyped a few elements we could easily work through the key issues with Keith and his team at Cumulus. These kinds of projects don’t come along that often and for us it highlights that we aren’t just a ‘manufacturer’”.