Cox Architecture have sensitively restored their heritage Brisbane studio, resulting in a modern creative workplace full of natural light. The foremost challenge was to design a space to suit both the way Cox work now and how the practice wants to work in the future. Secondly, Cox wanted to apply their wider philosophies about society, community, buildings, space and materials to their own domain.
The refurbishment of the studio has taken Cox Architecture on a journey of exploration and discovery within a space they thought they knew well, having been residents of the building since 1998. Old Mineral House, originally built in 1890 is one of the few remaining Victorian buildings in Brisbane, serving as a rare architectural reminder of Brisbane’s industrial heritage. Its former beauty, only hinted at through the remaining original cornices and other detail, was buried under layers of partitions, carpets, paint and false ceilings, a result of decades of piecemeal conversions.
Significant elements of the building’s construction have been hidden for some time. Internally the building's structure is predominantly intact. Cox Architecture were delighted to discover and preserve the original timber fish-bone structure and a series of cast iron columns. Stripping the brickwork exposed a remarkable patina of colour and texture that tells an evocative story of the building’s history, which is kept on-show as Cox add new pages to the story of Old Mineral House. Cox Architecture applied a democratic and open approach to planning the studio, recognising the dual needs of fluidity and collaboration within the practice.
The building is positioned next to the Botanical gardens and the Brisbane River, and Cox have celebrated this proximity by providing uninterrupted views across the studio and through the heritage windows. The open kitchen, which serves dually as an informal gathering space and as a welcome space for clients, overlooks the most favourable aspect so everyone can appreciate the beauty of the prime location. A 7m long dining table encourages a convivial atmosphere and provides for an understated and family-like approach hospitality.
The kitchen connects with the boardroom through a series of double height, glazed pivot doors, which creates a ‘Town Hall’ for events and staff meetings without isolating the space from the studio. New interventions are purposefully restrained to maintain the buildings’ original proportions and let its heritage be the hero. A joinery spine that also serves as a design review space extends the length of the studio, connecting the practice through a collaborative and transparent approach to the creative process, inviting all to participate.
The spine is bordered by co-working and break-out settings, including a Virtual Reality space, team tables and model making workshop. The new palette of black timber, steel and brass detailing draws from the buildings origins as a warehouse for the neighbouring Smellie & Co foundry, as well as from the original and signature cast iron columns. The overall effect is both respectful and transformative, and elevates both the functional performance and the brand experience of the design studio.
Cox Architecture say adding their own contemporary layer to the building has been a fulfilling collaboration. The practice has worked with local craftspeople to create an appropriate interior for such a unique building, providing for the future needs of a thoroughly contemporary practice.