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Light Box moment illuminates Collingwood warehouse

Commissioned by building company Marion Construction, Light Box is the second commercial building for this client, the other one having been built being 10 years ago on the same site.

Like that one, this one has its own street frontage to the east.

“Our client retained the other half of this site for a number of years, waiting for the opportunity to create a modest office building that would attract creative industries,” says Cousins.

The three tenancies, each occupying an entire level of approximately 130 square metres includes an architectural practice and a fashion group.

One of the starting points for the design was a visit by Cousins to the revered Maison de Verre (House of Glass) in Paris, designed by Pierre Chareau at the end of the 1920s.

The home’s glass-brick facade, extending over several levels, remains a source of inspiration for architects worldwide.

One strategic move was to place the stairwell at the front of the building.

One strategic move was to place the stairwell at the front of the building.Credit:Tess Kelly

“It’s the way light enters the home, as well the ability for the glass bricks to create privacy.

There’s also a sense of animation as people walk through the spaces, both at night, and during the day,” says Cousins, who was also keen to create this quality of light and animation to a building thousands of miles away Down Under.

Cousins and her team, like Chareau, used glass bricks and steel to frame windows and doors, along with a substantial amount of concrete.

“When you’re using this number of glass bricks, the detailing is paramount,” says Cousins, pointing out the junction between the glass bricks and the neighbouring offices/warehouses in the cul-de-sac.

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“Glass bricks seemed the most obvious choice, given we only had the western aspect to deliver extensive light,” says Cousins, who also included an eastern void at the rear of this building to allow for additional light.

Other contributing factors for the use of glass bricks also included the need to maximise the use of space and allow spaces to be flexible.

“You don’t want to have to see a workstation literally jammed against the glass,” says Cousins, who was also mindful of future developments that may occur directly opposite at some point in the future (currently low rise brick buildings).

One of the other strategic moves made by Clare Cousins Architects was to place the stairwell at the front of the building.

Open to the elements (with the exception of a roof) and framed by lush garden beds, this stairwell allows for individual tenants, as well as staff within each level, to interact as they mount or descend the stairs.

Cousins was also conscious of not creating interiors that were too prescriptive.

So, each floor includes a separate meeting area that forms part of the open plan space, a kitchenette and areas that could be easily customised to suit the various tenants.

Likewise, the selection of materials also allowed a ‘blank canvas’ of pale grey painted walls, polished concrete floors and green laminate joinery for areas such as the kitchen.

“Ventilation was an important driver in the design,” says Cousins, who included large sliding glass doors with Juliet-style balustrades to allow for cross ventilation.

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OSB (oriented strand board) tiles used for the ceiling also allow for the occupants to rearrange lighting and other fittings with relative ease.

Modestly sized offices that have a level of autonomy are relatively uncommon in the inner city, with many smaller practices ending up occupying a small portion within a larger tenancy, often appearing as simply a ‘subset’ of a larger organisation.

“We felt it was important to create a building that had its own identity, but also one that came with a certain civic quality,” adds Cousins.

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