Black Box Studio
Monday 08 Oct 2012


The architectural brief was to design an innovative, creative and functional workspace on a rural site in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. The clients wanted to re-use an existing machinery shed on the site to accommodate the two of them working together. The machinery shed was an uninspiring building. It was a dark, cold, damp building with no windows; it had an unspectacular facade of blonde brickwork, and three old steel roller doors which had formerly allowed access for farming machinery and equipment storage. Most of this building was now unused.

Adaptively re-using an existing building was a challenge, but allowed for the most sustainable of all building practices - to re-use an existing structure and make the most of its existing embodied energy.  We had to find a creative way for meeting the very specific project brief within the existing geometry of the machinery shed. The other challenge was that the climate in the Southern Highlands is one of extremes... it gets incredibly cold in winter and very hot in the summer.

The positives were that the building had a wonderful northern orientation which had the potential for allowing incredible light into the space, and the building was in good structural condition.

The client's interest in contemporary design influenced the architectural response to this project. The existing building was re-dressed in black glass, giving it a sharp and edgy exterior that reflected the sky and vegetation beyond. High performance tilt-up doors replaced the former roller-doors allowing for maximum connection to the outdoors when they were open, and a serene, peaceful space when closed. The architectural response allowed for a minimal and restrained interior which acted as a perfect canvas for a beautiful custom fit-out by a local furniture designer.

Sustainable choices were made throughout both the project design and the selection of materials and finishes. The space is naturally ventilated most of the year, and artificial lighting is used to augment the abundant natural light the space receives. The choice to locate the workspace adjacent to the client's home means that there is no commuting to work and back which removes any impact that transportation would have on the environment. An existing structure was re-used, which is the most sustainable approach we could have taken on this site. Internally, sustainable certified veneers were used throughout. The furniture has been designed so that it is modular, and can be removed from the space and re-used elsewhere if needed in the future. It was important to specify high-quality fittings and fixtures that had a long life span and would not need to be replaced in the short to medium term. Local labour and expertise was utilised throughout the design and construction as much as possible.

The end result is a functional, beautiful and dynamic contemporary work space that has exceeded the client's expectations and maximised the architectural possibilities of re-using an existing rural out-building.

tina tziallas|architecture studio