Project Sheet: Conceptual Crib

AT RAFT STUDIOS, AN ART COLLECTION BECAME A CRUCIAL STARTING POINT FOR THE REDESIGN OF A HYBRID APARTMENT/OFFICE SPACE IN MELBOURNE’S COLLINGWOOD. BELINDA AUCOTT WRITES.

The brass clad hallway at RAFT Studios features the neon light work 'This Way Up' by Kristin McIver

The brass clad hallway at RAFT Studios features the neon light work ‘This Way Up’ by Kristin McIver

EDWARD COMMONS AND STASIA RAFT, who share the reins of a graphics and branding practice, knew they required a work space that would make their art collection ‘pop’. Now, inside the front door of the existing warehouse shell, a sizzling neon light greets guests as they enter a brass-clad hallway. And that’s just the beginning of the conceptual arts experience that’s in store for whoever crosses the threshold into this hybrid home and workspace.

Works presented inside the office include a biting, tongue-in-cheek installation by Ronnie van Hout, photography by Michael Cook and multiple works by artist Meredith Turnbull.

As a branding and graphics studio, Edward says he and Stasia wrote the kind of brief they themselves would have liked to receive. “There was a sculptural form we both wanted. We were keen that the architecture would not overwhelm the space and we needed it to be cohesive with everything we have going on here,” he says.

The brief also described the porous line between their work and social lives, and laid out criteria for not closing down the space. The architects at Melbourne-based practice Edition Office honoured this whimsical line between work and play with a solution of high drama.

Taking a charred piece of meat as his inspiration, lead architect Aaron Roberts based his design on an object that is charcoal black on the outside and blood red on the inside. Black steel, gold brass, pink tinged marble and blackened wood veneer comprise the elemental palette, against which the art smacks.

While the program of the rooms is fairly conventional – two offices that can be used as bedrooms, a bathroom, a powder room, a central kitchen and large warehouse windows facing the loungeroom – the trick lies in the way each module can withdraw and protrude from the centre line depending on what’s required. Kim Bridgland, co-founder of Edition Office, describes the studio as an ‘object in the round’.

“The rooms are designed to withdraw into themselves and to create an enigmatic object,” he tells Art Edit. “The architecture is experienced as a body in the room. Taking that more literally, the space is like a whale with dermal and sub-dermal layers that are graphically becoming more and more intense as you penetrate the space.”

Importantly, he says all the handles on the black steel doors are magnetic and can be removed to conceal entrances and exits. Like a magic box, this has a reductive quality that makes the studio both flexible and appealing.

“We work with art institutions and art collectors a lot,” says Kim. “We see architecture as something that exists in an urban landscape; in spaces and in histories. We see architecture not as art, but as a modifier, as something that informs people, unites people, and as a force that seeks to upgrade or enhance people’s experience of a place.

“We are incredibly proud that RAFT Studios doesn’t read as architecture,” he continues. “Editing and detailing allows it to become something far more religious. I love the fact that that when the doors are closed you just see red cracks and when the doors are open the colour bleeds out and provides a red wash on the surrounding space.”

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