In this time of design renaissance, Australian architects and designers are undertaking more projects that seek to preserve, question or reinterpret the old – projects like repurposing former warehouses in inner-city locations. It seems that the structural integrity of these industrial buildings has rendered them armour of sorts to safely house unique and long-lasting homes. Not only that, their imperfections and austere qualities are seen not as faults but rather as qualities to be celebrated.
It’s been three years since we last shortlisted our favourite Australian warehouse conversions, allowing more than enough time to bookmark another five outstanding case study homes.
Ian Moore Architects
In an area of Sydney celebrated for its heritage buildings, Ian Moore Architects have transformed a former brick warehouse into a vibrant two-storey apartment. The brief called for a four-bedroom home with self-contained guest accommodation, as well as a laboratory space to support the owners’ occupation of equine genetics and a large garage space to store their collection of sports cars.
In their quest to strip the building back to its truest form, and avoid it from becoming too modern, the owners requested that there be no timber, marble or black finishes in the new design. As such, only the original construction materials are on display.
The apartment’s upper level comprises an open-plan kitchen, living and dining space, which looks onto a central courtyard and lap pool through double-storey louvred windows. Concrete floors, brick walls and exposed, white-painted timber trusses reinforce the building’s industrial origins, while bold furniture selections and sculptural pieces affirm its new identity. “The new sits in contrast with and complements the original, offering a sympathetic reinvention of the warehouse space,” Ian says.
Carter Williamson Architects
Camperdown, located in Sydney’s east on Gadigal country, features a mixture of modern high rises and Victorian terraces. It’s where Carter Williamson Architects were tasked with reimagining an existing warehouse conversion, where they knew ‘space was at a premium’. Informing their detail-oriented approach, the studio have left no stone unturned in realising the home’s potential and creating subtle surprises within. Collaborating with landscape design studio Dangar Barin Smith, ‘Rosso Verde’ is now alive with light, foliage and colourful character.
The original client brief for the converted warehouse space sought to evolve the interior into a light-filled, contemporary home that utilised every inch of space. The idea was to retain the structure’s architectural elements as points of interest, such as brick walls, exposed timber and a steel bridge.
Calmness, warmth and safety were the driving themes for the project, informing the decision to maximise light and openness in each space. A curved void is carved into each level, offering light from the ceiling to the kitchen, living and dining areas below. The opening establishes a light-filled visual connection with the outdoors and between the interior spaces. Lead designer on the project, Julie Nass, notes that it provides a ‘spatial joy,’ invoking a feeling of ‘wonder, light and openness.’
Stable & Cart House
Since it was built in the early 1920s, Stable & Cart House has played a multitude of roles; first, it was a stable and cart store, then, an ironworks, a salvage warehouse, a dressmaking atelier and now, for the first time in its life, a private home. Melbourne-based firm Clare Cousins Architects have written the next chapter, whose practice is steeped in the richness of contemporary Australian architecture and its impact on the environment and society more broadly.
“Our client was keen to engage with and preserve the rich history of the building and its varying uses,” Clare says, “All of which have left an indelible mark.” The double-height perimeter was integral to the building’s industrial character and sense of being (in the client’s words) – an “urban refuge” which was to remain untouched.
However, the amount of natural light permitted by the brick walls was limited, to which Clare Cousins responded by removing a portion of the roof and adding a central courtyard. Aside from this, the building’s industrial patina, aged timber, and rusted corrugated roofing were features to be celebrated, not fixed. In contrast, new features (the iron bookcase, for example) only add to this lineage of materials.
Sitting within a low-rise tower in Sydney’s Surry Hills – previously used for storage and commercial purposes – NoMad is described by the couple who live there as an ‘urban sanctuary’. As avid travellers, the pair wanted somewhere they could feel grounded and at peace, with spaces they could fully immerse themselves in. Tasked with fulfilling this brief was interior design studio Alexander &CO., whose workspace is located in the neighbouring suburb of Bondi Junction. The resulting apartment’s spacious volumes and expressive shapes render it a private gallery, encouraging anyone who visits to treat it as such.
The shell of the three-bedroom-two-bathroom apartment comprises the typical characteristics of an industrial building: concrete floors, tall ceilings with exposed trusses, broad structural posts and factory-style steel-framed windows. Rather than seeking to reduce these features, Alexander &CO. chose to honour them in a more contemporary fashion.
“The structural envelope possessed a beautiful scale reminiscent of its industrial heritage. However, it lacked the amenity of a habitable apartment,” Alexander &CO. director Jeremy Bull says. Now that the latter has been amended, the building’s historical features are pillars of its design; the floors provide visual weight, the ceilings create depth, the posts amplify internal proportions, and the windows generate continuity. “The conclusion of this project was a completely reinvigorated narrative which celebrates and repositions the building’s history,” Jeremy says.
Rob Kennon Architects have ushered a piece of Melbourne’s built history into contemporary relevance with its resurrection of a former warehouse conversion in the inner-urban suburb of Fitzroy.
Embedded within a historically rich locale on Melbourne’s city fringe, the collection of buildings that made up the existing conditions at Ackmans House evolved time and time again before reaching their present iteration. The circa 1860s site was originally part of the property holdings of the Ackman Furniture Group, with the brickwork of the facade still bearing its name. Shifting through a myriad of adaptations, a commercial enterprise and then later office space, the buildings had been all but stripped of those design gestures that would have carried an enduring story of place.
“When we began the project in 2018, the interior was narrowly visible behind a poorly constructed renovation and the clutter of household objects,” Rob Kennon recalls. “The lofty warehouse volume had been carved into a series of smaller, awkward spaces delineated by plasterboard walls, partition windows and a mezzanine level.” So Rob Kennon Architects embarked on dismantling reactionary additions to reveal the heritage elements. Simultaneously, the team fused them with contemporary relevance by instilling the spaces in-between with meaning “much like buildings within a city whose edges define laneways, streets and plazas.”