Searle X Waldron’s brief from the University of Melbourne was to create an ‘end of trip’ for those students riding their bikes, together with change rooms and a cafe that could also be used by those either travelling by bike or simply by locals wanting a coffee and a bite to eat.
The other goal was to create outdoor space, with a link from Sturt Street through to Dodd Street, reducing the distance for those walking into the city.
“We saw the new park as being integral to our design, even the way that it was conceived, from elevated rolling lawns to places where students and the broader community could engage,” says Waldron, pointing out the concrete benches dotted through the grounds.
From Sturt Street, the heritage-listed 1920s garage, with its flat fronted brick and rendered facade, appears completely intact.
However, it’s been faithfully restored, complete with new thermally improved double glazed steel windows.
Once used as the postmaster’s general garage for distributing mail, the front portion is now a cafe.
However, past the heritage facade, with its apple green front door, and the buildings new western elevation (virtually entirely new) it gives way to a kaleidoscope of colour, not dissimilar to a Missoni sweater.
Comprising thousands of radial sawn pine timber battens, designed as panels, each comes together in the same way as the fine stitches of a Missoni design come together.
The timber battens extend into skylights, soffits and even bench seats, appearing as fabric, a folded surface that delights at every turn.
For those parking their bikes in the 250-odd capacity space both floor and wall mounted, the experience must be akin to entering the lining of a sumptuous garment with 60-millimetre gaps between each timber batten.
“We wanted to ensure a great experience at the end of one’s journey, rather than just a shed to lock up your bike,” says Waldron, who also included change rooms and two places where coffee is served (a hatch at the eastern end of the building folds out to form a canteen-style arrangement).
High on the architects’ agenda was to create a sustainable building, one that included solar panels and a ‘skin’ that allowed for the spaces to breathe.
The change rooms, for example, treated as a module within the structure, feature plywood walls and polycarbonate skylights to allow for dappled light, as with the bike storage facility.
Searle X Waldron Architecture was also mindful of re-using as much of the original fabric of the 1920s building as possible, with the steel columns once supporting part of the structure, repositioned to form a delightful colonade from east to west.
Those walking along either Dodd or Sturt streets will be surprised to see this new addition to Southbank.
Previously occupied by a couple of ancillary garages, also from the 1920s, the space, now artistically imbued with colour, activates the precinct, an end-of-trip destination that remains in the minds of bike riders, but also those discovering End Of Trip for the first time.