Slack Office - 551 Swanston Street, Carlton
The Slack Melbourne office is an oasis. From the moment one arrives, there’s a sense of an urban forest. Corridors and offices, both communal and shared, are lushly planted. Steel planter boxes, juxtaposed with timber floors, give the interior a slightly 1970s feel, but with a contemporary twist.
Both Breathe Architecture and Slack were set on creating a unique office environment that brought out the original features of the building, once used as storage for malt. The client's brief included an extremely quiet non-reverberating office space. “This was challenging given the majority of materials used were mild steel and timber,” says Matt Assouad, Project Group Project Manager, who worked closely with an acoustics engineer and the architects. The team came up with the ‘Aurex Cube’ and lined both internal and external doors as a means of both flattening sound and minimising sound transfer. The workstations at Slack were also thoughtfully placed to allow for sufficient noise control. Nib walls, lined with Autex, further reduce sound.
Rather than using timber simply as floorboards, it is beautifully wrapped around the reception desk in a herringbone pattern. The same herringbone pattern appears in one of the cocoon-like meeting areas. Juxtaposed with raw concrete circular walls, there’s a sense of quiet solitude. Likewise, the exposed concrete walls in a communal meeting area provide a sense of intimacy while acknowledging the building’s original use for malt storage.
“We established a very close working relationship with the client representative, Linda Shaw. She was in the country for only a few weeks during the initial design review stages. Linda was looking for specific qualities in a builder, not just a company capable of building,” says Assouad. “She was interested in a company that was capable of controlling the design, as well as the budget and quality of this project,” he adds. Navigating the many local authorities, owner representatives, leasing agents, building managers and heritage issues surrounding the proposed site represented another ‘arm’ in this unusual project.
The result of this collaboration is testimony to the skills and experience of all parties. Given the solidity of the existing concrete walls, there’s a sense of lightness and joy in the design and in its execution. Timber-battened screens create subtle divisions between spaces, as do the built-in steel and timber seats that wrap around this unique fit-out. There’s also a delightful ‘looseness', with communal areas such as the bar/café also used as another work environment, either individually or for small informal groups.
Converting a malt store into a contemporary office environment could have produced a sense of isolation and a purely inward focus. However, the lush planting throughout the building has created a beautifully green environment, one that takes staff outside, at least in a sensory, rather than direct, way. And given the proximity to the city, it’s an oasis where calm and tranquillity prevail.
Winner, 2017 Australian Institute of Architects, VIC Chapter, Interior Architecture Award
Winner, 2017 INDE Work Space Award
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