This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Brutalism At Work With Clare Cousins Architects

Work Space

It takes a certain skilled pair of ‘finding eyes’ to see potential in a run-down building. Today’s office tour with Clare Cousins Architecture is a perfect example of looking past first impressions, to uncover a hidden gem!

We chat with practice manager Laura Norris-Jones about peeling back the layers of this bunker-style building in North Melbourne, and celebrating the Brutalist materiality of the space. Viva la concrete!

22nd October, 2018

Clare Cousins Architecture – workspace goals! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The leafy green balcony has become increasingly luscious since the architects and builders moved in five years ago. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Concentrating among concrete. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The shared space is dived into distinct work sites. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Designer seat for an award winning architect. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Office details. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Exposed brick work helps divide the space and give character to the offices. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Meetings wallpapered with greenery. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The Clare Cousins Architects team. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

A light filled ‘bunker.’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
Monday 22nd October 2018

‘The biggest hurdle came at the very beginning: looking past the building’s previous state to imagine what it could become.’ – Laura Norris-Jones, Clare Cousins Architects.

Clare Cousins Architects and commercial builders Maben Group have been office room-mates for over a decade, and enjoyed the dynamics of a shared, yet independent, working environment. Five years ago, both businesses relocated into what practice manager Laura describes as a ‘rabbit warren of small dark consulting rooms’, which they dubbed the ‘Blackwood Street Bunker’.

The team transformed the bleak and unloved space, through removing partition walls, revealing the concrete floors and blockwork walls, and introducing skylights. The custard-coloured exterior render was painstakingly chipped off by Maben, slowly piece-by-piece revealing a building with incredible Brutalist materiality. (See here for some exterior shots!). A hidden gem, sniffed out like a truffle by these clever architects and builders!

The design of the office has been structured to encourage collaboration, but also to separate work spaces from visitor areas. Lush greenery designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture brings a fresh sparkle into the space via the sliding glass doors onto the balcony, and also provides shade, eliminating the need for mechanical cooling in warmer months. Laura explains, ‘we love watching it change each season, and become more abundant each year – it’s also popular with some curious local birds.’

The genius here lies partly in the clever re-working of this 1970s building, but more powerfully, in the architects’ visionary ability to see the potential lurking beneath the surface of this lacking-in-love building. Laura highlights ‘the biggest hurdle came at the very beginning: looking past the building’s previous state to imagine what it could become.’

The office beams with the energy of Rowena Martinich and Caroline Walls’ artworks, and Clare’s office features designer-swoon items including a vintage Pollock Executive Chair and vintage Hans Wegner 3-legged chair. Seriously working in style! If you are curious about entering the bunker (not as foreboding as it sounds!), keep your peepers attuned to the Open House Melbourne website.

 

Type of space

Architectural Studio

Number of employees

Eight

Date moved in

October 2013

Renovation team

Clare Cousins Architects and Maben

An office should be…

…productive and enjoyable: we spend so much of our week at work, we’re lucky to spend it in a great space with great people.

The Latest

Architecture

A Sustainable Home, Designed To Connect To Community

The sunny and generous renovation of a California Bungalow in Northcote, by Gardiner Architects.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A House Revived From The 1990s

CO-AP Architects boldly re-imagine a 1990s semi-detached home in Balmain, Sydney.
Miriam McGarry

In Print

A New Monograph Celebrating One Of Australia's Most Captivating Female Artists

As the new book series Mini Monographs hits shelves, we offer a look inside the first volume, honouring bold painter Del Kathryn Barton.
Sarah Darmody

Modernist Australia

A Rare Opportunity In Melbourne's 'Bagel Belt'

A five-bedroom 1970's gem in Caulfield North, and it's for sale!
Patricia Callan
  21 hours ago

Interiors

Stand-Out Kitchens To Inspire

Kitchen ideas and inspiration from our interiors columnist, Lauren Li.
Lauren Li

Homes

From Caterpillar To Butterfly - A Truly Transformed Home!

Take a tour through the incredible Sydney home Terri Winter of top3 by design shares with her family.

News

Exploring Colour + Pace Through 'Blue And Green Music'

A brilliant new exhibition from Sally Lee Anderson takes cues from an evocative Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
Sally Tabart
  24 hours ago

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Melissa Leong, Food Writer + TV Presenter

We spend a day with the multifaceted foodie, who has recently made the move from Sydney to Melbourne!
Sally Tabart
  5 hours ago

Art

The Local Gallery That's ‘Light Years’ Ahead

Sydney’s Michael Reid Gallery celebrates lightbox photography with a pioneering new exhibition.
Elle Murrell

Interiors

The Winners Of The Belle Coco Republic Interior Design Awards

Take a deep dive into the Belle Coco Republic Interior Design Awards for 2019, announced last night in Sydney.

Architecture

The Joyful Renovation Of A 1940s Home

A sensitive and surprising renovation to a 1940s brick home in Ascot Vale by Taylor Knights.
Miriam McGarry

Studio Visit

New Work From A Favourite Local Artist, Super-Charged With Colour + Pattern

Melbourne-based artist Gavin Brown opens a new exhibition of works today, inspired by the sights, flavours, and moods of travels through Asi...
Elle Murrell

News

A Unique New Line Of Meticulously Handwoven Bags

Introducing George – a limited collection of bags exploring the relationship between object, material, and human interaction.
Sally Tabart

On The Market

One Of Fitzroy’s Most Iconic Homes Is On The Market

Your chance to see inside (and maybe own!) the most intriguing house on the street!

News

A Month-Long Third Drawer Down x David Shrigley Pop-Up

This decade-long collaboration between Melbourne’s kookiest gift store and the renowned artist is open for business!
Sally Tabart

View Comments

Similar Stories

Work Space

Fancy Fitzroy digs for Flack Studio

An old 1920's electroplating factory in Fitzroy gets an inspired update.
Lucy Feagins

Work Space

An inspired new HQ for The Jacky Winter Group

The AMAZING new headquarters of Melbourne creative agency, The Jacky Winter Group.

Work Space

The Boroughs, A Creative Hub In Camperdown

Inspiring space design, personalised touches and facilitating creative 'cross-pollination' have really paid off at The Boroughs.
Elle Murrell

This Week

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Melissa Leong, Food Writer + TV Presenter

We spend a day with the multifaceted foodie, who has recently made the move from Sydney to Melbourne!
Sally Tabart
  5 hours ago

Interiors

The Winners Of The Belle Coco Republic Interior Design Awards

Take a deep dive into the Belle Coco Republic Interior Design Awards for 2019, announced last night in Sydney.

Modernist Australia

A Rare Opportunity In Melbourne's 'Bagel Belt'

A five-bedroom 1970's gem in Caulfield North, and it's for sale!
Patricia Callan
  21 hours ago

News

Exploring Colour + Pace Through 'Blue And Green Music'

A brilliant new exhibition from Sally Lee Anderson takes cues from an evocative Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
Sally Tabart
  24 hours ago

Art

The Local Gallery That's ‘Light Years’ Ahead

Sydney’s Michael Reid Gallery celebrates lightbox photography with a pioneering new exhibition.
Elle Murrell

Homes

From Caterpillar To Butterfly - A Truly Transformed Home!

Take a tour through the incredible Sydney home Terri Winter of top3 by design shares with her family.

News

A Month-Long Third Drawer Down x David Shrigley Pop-Up

This decade-long collaboration between Melbourne’s kookiest gift store and the renowned artist is open for business!
Sally Tabart

In Print

A New Monograph Celebrating One Of Australia's Most Captivating Female Artists

As the new book series Mini Monographs hits shelves, we offer a look inside the first volume, honouring bold painter Del Kathryn Barton.
Sarah Darmody

Architecture

A House Revived From The 1990s

CO-AP Architects boldly re-imagine a 1990s semi-detached home in Balmain, Sydney.
Miriam McGarry

On The Market

One Of Fitzroy’s Most Iconic Homes Is On The Market

Your chance to see inside (and maybe own!) the most intriguing house on the street!

News

A Unique New Line Of Meticulously Handwoven Bags

Introducing George – a limited collection of bags exploring the relationship between object, material, and human interaction.
Sally Tabart

Interiors

Stand-Out Kitchens To Inspire

Kitchen ideas and inspiration from our interiors columnist, Lauren Li.
Lauren Li

Studio Visit

New Work From A Favourite Local Artist, Super-Charged With Colour + Pattern

Melbourne-based artist Gavin Brown opens a new exhibition of works today, inspired by the sights, flavours, and moods of travels through Asi...
Elle Murrell

Architecture

A Sustainable Home, Designed To Connect To Community

The sunny and generous renovation of a California Bungalow in Northcote, by Gardiner Architects.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

The Joyful Renovation Of A 1940s Home

A sensitive and surprising renovation to a 1940s brick home in Ascot Vale by Taylor Knights.
Miriam McGarry

Similar Stories

Work Space

Fancy Fitzroy digs for Flack Studio

An old 1920's electroplating factory in Fitzroy gets an inspired update.
Lucy Feagins

Work Space

An inspired new HQ for The Jacky Winter Group

The AMAZING new headquarters of Melbourne creative agency, The Jacky Winter Group.

Work Space

The Boroughs, A Creative Hub In Camperdown

Inspiring space design, personalised touches and facilitating creative 'cross-pollination' have really paid off at The Boroughs.
Elle Murrell