BY NAT WIDERA
The first meeting with a new client, and the first meeting with the existing building, are one of the most important points in the synopsis of a project. As designers, we consciously choose to observe and listen rather than to express our own narrative. The clients explain their needs, their business idea with their values and offerings. It is invaluable information that immediately colours the process. But we also have a peculiar fascination with what a building will communicate to us, how our new design will work alongside the existing envelope. This is the story of Dux. Situated in a hidden arcade in an inner city suburb of Melbourne, this minuscule... ...shop boasts a massive personality. With only 24sqm, it is higher than it is deep, exposing its history: old rafters, clerestory windows, a pressed metal ceiling, a rich copper facade detailing hidden behind layers of dust. The evolution of the site is evident: two windows that have been blocked off by a building a long time ago; a connecting door to the neighbouring shop has been closed off. In our design, we chose to embrace this history into our design narrative, a nod to the past. The floor has been restored, the pressed metal repaired, the copper detailing acid cleaned. The focal point of the space is the monolithic concrete bar. Apart from hosting the coffee machine with all its accessories, it also incorporates a generous glass pastry display, and sits confidently in front of the bagged brick wall. The back bar has been kept deliberately subdued, focussing on functionality. A pale grey splashback and shelf blend effortlessly into the brick wall, providing essential display and storage space. Accents of American Oak timber are used as slim waiting tables and additional display opportunities. Two suspended pendants immediately draw the eye to the oversized high ceiling, exposing the sheer height of the space, and with their black cords provide an almost sculptural element. Cutting through, is a rich fiery coloured powder coat used in the frames of the stools and the minimalistic menu board. The recycled timber floor offers a rich foundation to the materials used. The space is successful because everyone, from the clients, the builders, the designers, the branding consultants, even the building itself, were committed to all be on one team, creating something that respects its surroundings, compliments the existing, and offers a meaningful interaction with its customers.