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Moroccan feel adds to office’s internal courtyard

Six Degrees Architects designed the new office in Jessie Street, Cremorne. Photo: Alice Hutchison The exterior of the four-level building designed by Six Degrees Architects. Photo: Alice Hutchison
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This four-level office block, overlooking the railway tracks entering Richmond Station, has quickly become a landmark building in the Cremorne neighbourhood. Designed by Six Degrees Architects, the low-rise building could easily be mistaken for apartments rather than offices for the techno industry. North-facing balconies, with their concrete breezeblock screens, add a more domestic feel to the facade. “We wanted to add another layer to the facade rather than just presenting a monochromatic steel and glass office building,” says architect Michael Frazzetto, senior associate with Six Degrees Architects.

The prominent corner site, previously occupied by a single-storey 1960s warehouse, was shaped not only by the position but also, importantly, by the client’s admiration for Six Degrees Architects’ Newmarket Hotel, in Inkerman Street, St Kilda. “He loved the way we used concrete at that hotel and its general materiality,” says Frazzetto, referring to that project’s use of exposed brick, steel, tiles and more sumptuous materials such as the lush red velvet curtains. A recent trip to Morocco also captivated the client’s imagination. “He showed us images of the Riad where he stayed. There was an internal courtyard and a sense of intimacy that came with this place,” he adds.

Six Degrees Architects took their client’s brief on board and as a team looked at various courtyard-style buildings in several European cities as well as those built over several time spans, including Roman palazzi, Renaissance buildings and those found in Moorish cities. “We felt we could apply some of the same principles to this site. A number of people here came up with sketches and concepts in the initial design phase,” says Frazzetto, who sees the outcome of this project coming from the eclectic approach from various members of the design team.

The building’s concrete facade, comprising thermo panels (fully insulated to allow them to be fully exposed for the internal spaces) are complemented by floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors and concrete brise-soleil concrete block screens to filter light, ventilation and views over the railway tracks. In contrast, the west elevation is predominantly concrete with carefully articulated windows framed in steel to accentuate the impressive city views. “The yellow (painted panels) refer to the Richmond Football Club,” says Frazzetto, who included a large concrete planter on the first level on the western facade to form sun protection over the pavement.

As with many nearby warehouses and factories, the approach to this office building is fairly discreet through a narrow passage. But it’s only until one enters that the Moorish ambience unfolds. The office on the top level, for example, taking up the entire floor plate (approximately 250 square metres), features an internal courtyard. Immediately past the steel and glass doors to the courtyard is a colonnade of arched concrete columns, evocative of the Newmarket Hotel and also the Riad in Morocco. A fireplace with a concrete hearth framed by Moorish-style tiles, completes the picture. “Eventually this area will be filled with plants, creating an oasis in this urban environment,” says Frazzetto.

Six Degrees Architects also included archways within the office spaces, including carving into the concrete walls. And in contrast to the Moorish “overlay”, the palette has been kept simple, with concrete ceilings and walls, the former with exposed services.

Unlike the top level, the lower levels have been segmented into thirds with plywood walls softening the concrete floors and ceilings. Ideal for tech companies searching for smaller and well-located offices, there’s been no shortage of tenants since the building was finished. “We wanted to create simple, functional and robust spaces, but also provide a building that had its own character, something that didn’t feel too corporate,” adds Frazzetto.

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