Breathing new life into old buildings

Industrial building conversion has become increasingly common in residential real estate, but what happens when a heritage building loses its shine and is reinvigorated to generate new business? The results can be magical. We've found six Australian offices that have breathed new life into buildings built between the 1880s and 1970s.

Words by Annie Reid

HASSELL Studio, Melbourne

HASSELL has celebrated the bones of this neglected Melbourne 1880s warehouse by converting it into a visually outstanding and environmentally-friendly office for its team of architects, interior designers, landscape architects and urban designers.

Both floors of the two-storey warehouse are flooded with natural light that flows through the full-height, steel-encased windows. The large exposed beams and planter boxes give the space laid-back contemporary feel, and if there isn’t enough light for staff members inside, the building’s roof deck is popular for lunches, breaks and special events.

It’s sustainable too with low-impact lighting, recycled bricks and upcycled materials from the original building.

HASSELL used upcycled materials in their 1880s office conversion

Keeping the bones of the original building was a key feature in this warehouse conversion

Edge Agency and Creative Oasis, Sydney

MAKE Creative is the team behind the striking new workplace for Edge Agency and Creative Oasis in Surry Hills, Sydney. Working within a 1970s office building, the design is monochrome and minimal with plenty of clean lines and continuity throughout the offices.

The workplace is wrapped in a painted black band just underneath the window height and this graphic element is complemented by the work of street artist, Brett Chan, whose black and white painting forms the backdrop of the main workstation area.

Custom joinery was used to create an adaptable space that can be repositioned with purpose, and there’s also a creative use of plywood throughout.

The black band is a recurring theme in this project by MAKE Creative. Image Credit: Luc Redmond and Mainbrace Constructions

Custom joinery was used throughout the project to make the spaces adaptable. Image Credit: Luc Redmond and Mainbrace Constructions

Foundry9, Melbourne

The Australian Knitting Mill was established in 1910 and is one of Richmond’s oldest buildings. When Inspire9 acquired the space in 2010, it was unused and dormant. Since then, they’ve created a rich and exciting coworking environment now called Foundry9.

The office’s design emphasises the building’s heritage and, as pioneers of the coworking movement, the designers ensured that the workspace is adaptable, flexible and sustainable. It includes large expansive rooms which double as event spaces, while also offering rooms suitable for board meetings and individual working.

The Australian Knitting Mill in Melbourne is no stranger to production lines, but these days the machines are of a more digitally line.

The space at Foundry9 can be adapted for events, collaborative meetings or private stations.

GPO2 DesignInc Studio, Melbourne

A lively hub for creatives sits on the second-storey of Melbourne’s historic General Post Office – the DesignInc studio. Built in 1867, the GPO building has been a cornerstone of Melbourne’s celebrated city of architecture.

The studio pays homage to the historic building with a design that touches the original structure and fits inside the heritage volume. The tall ceilings and high archways provide perfect conditions for the open-plan, flexible workspace, which hosts 70 architects, designers, support staff and subtenants. Flexible working spaces allow for an array of studio activities and the space is climate controlled from the thermal mass of the original building, daylight and fresh air.

The GPO in Melbourne’s CBD is an important Victorian landmark in more ways than one. Image Credit: Lucas Allen.

The high ceilings and archways are a key heritage feature that has been maintained in the modern update of the building. Image Credit: Lucas Allen

The Buchan Group, Melbourne

Opened in 1917, Melbourne’s Mail Exchange Building is one of the earliest examples of Classical Revival architecture. Today, the studio on Level 1 is host to the Melbourne arm of architecture practice, The Buchan Group.

The studio has been reinvigorated with over 2,000sq m, and The Buchan Group has made a significant contribution to the original structure by enhancing its features including exposed ceilings, concrete render and sheer curtains, which create comfort in this wide, open-plan space.

Distinctive pods feature throughout to encourage project teams to connect and collaborate with each other, and large grid windows provide a spectacular outlook towards Melbourne’s CBD.

The Buchan group used a range of textures and materials to create atmosphere throughout the 2,000sqm of the old Mail Exchange building.

The original grid windows of the building belie the modern lighting and furniture within the Buchan Group’s Melbourne branch.

Archier Studio, Melbourne

Archier Studio is located in Brunswick’s iconic Hardwick Building, which was built in 1908 as Victoria’s first steel structured building. Today, Archier Studio is an open-place workspace with hot desks for design professionals. It’s also home to its own architectural practice.

Large, arch windows fill the studio with natural light – which suits the office’s vast population of indoor plants and flowers. The space was leased in 2016 and since then the staff have created and designed the studio to make it their own.

Contemporary desk carrels made from dark wood and metal create a great space to work individually, while the studio also offers communal spaces for co-working and client meetings.

The original archways of the Hardwick Building ensure plenty of light for collaborative projects. Image Credit: Haydn Cattach

Carrel-ing around – Hot desks for creatives break up the space of the open plan Archier office. Image Credit: Haydn Cattach

About the Author: Annie Reid

Annie Reid is a qualified journalist, professional copywriter and published author with a passion for everything bricks and mortar. For many years, she’s written thousand of stories for newspapers, magazines and clients around the world. Somewhere between the heady buzz of headlines and deadlines, she discovered a niche for creating tailor made content for the property, real estate, architecture and design industries. Annie holds a Bachelor of Arts and is currently studying a Masters in Publishing and Communications, both from the University of Melbourne.

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