After what feels like a decade (ok, perhaps more like 5-6 years) of every brand under the sun conceiving the next big ‘Pop-Up’ (us included!) it was strangely refreshing this week to be invited to a PERMANENT concept store.
The store in question is Mercedes me – after 2.5 years in development, and more than 6 months of construction, this store / cafe / event space operated by Mercedes-Benz is a benchmark for Melbourne’s retail and cafe culture.
At the helm of this project is Simon Johnson, who has worked at Mercedes-Benz for 18 years. After a seasoned career in various roles within the company, he’s excited to have been entrusted to execute this very special project for the brand. ‘My diversity and time at the company has given me a rich passion for the brand’ he enthuses. With a particular passion for architecture and design, Simon is also one of eight co-founders of Melbourne Open House. ‘Being part of Melbourne Open House has broadened my appreciation of architecture, design and the built environment’ he explains. ‘The mix of the two certainly influenced my input and desire to share the Mercedes-Benz brand stories through a beautiful space.’
The goal, of course, is to offer visitors a ‘Mercedes-Benz experience’ away from the traditional car showroom. It’s a sort of pleasantly disorientating idea, because it’s actually not that common to set foot in a high-end architecturally designed retail environment, that doesn’t want to sell you anything (except, perhaps, a coffee!). Instead, Mercedes me really asks just one thing of its visitors – to experience.
Designed by revered local architectural firm Jackson Clements Burrows, this versatile space channels a sleek, industrial feel. Lead architect Simon Topliss has specialised in designing spaces for the performing arts, hospitality and education for the past 15 years. ‘The Mercedes me project was an amazing synthesis of that experience’ he summarises. ‘We were really excited about bringing together the theatre of the activations and events proposed by Mercedes, along with Melbourne’s hospitality culture’.
JCB’s design response was inspired by archival photography of the Mercedes-Benz factories of the 1950s. ‘We found these wonderful images of beautiful factory spaces with amazing, fine steelwork’ Simon explains. ‘It was spare and minimal and incredibly ordered.’
These photographs became JCB’s inspiration for the design of the space, driving the use of repeated metal frames which wrap around the interior, serving as balustrades, space dividers, banquette seating and lighting frames. Timber panelling, leather upholstery, and a delicious sage green colour palette complete the look.
Conceived in partnership with local coffee kings St Ali, Mercedes me offers a full breakfast and lunch menu downstairs. Upstairs on the mezzanine, the ‘Maker Space’ will host an evolving program of ‘meet the maker’ events, with a focus on local craftsmanship. The ‘Library’ is a lux, lounge-like reading space, and the ‘Drawing Room’, a meeting space celebrating Mercedes history of design and innovation, going back to that time when cars were actually designed on paper, with a pencil.
We hope this particularly considered project might be a turning point for Melbourne, in some small way – offering a dynamic, multi-faceted creative space that will evolve over time, and giving our shrinking attention spans some reprieve from the incessant impermanence of the pop-up!
Mercedes me Melbourne is now open on the corner of King and Collins streets in the Melbourne CBD. The first of its kind in Australia, this unique collaborative hub is where café culture meets Mercedes-Benz lifestyle. To stay up to date with the latest from Mercedes me, head to the website , or follow @mercedesmestore.melbourne.