Lemon, Middle and Orange in Rokeby Street, Collingwood. Photo: Peter Hyatt People can either stand at the bench in the front courtyard or move inside to one of the tables. Photo: Peter Hyatt
Like DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in New York or Brick Lane in London, Rokeby Street in Collingwood is quietly undergoing a transformation. As industry continues to move to the outer suburbs, offices and cafes are taking over the spaces that housed those industries.
When John Wardle first came across the 1940s brick building that became the home for his practice, John Wardle Architects, a couple of years ago, it not only reminded him of changing urban areas in New York and London, it inspired a belief in him that the architect was British.
”The polychromatic bricks and steel-framed windows spoke of a British architect,” says Wardle, who traced the titles to Goodlass Wall & Co, a paint manufacturer from Liverpool.
Wardle gutted the three-level building, transforming it into a two-level office for his practice and bringing in creatives at ground level: Spacecraft, a leading textile printing practice, together with Bus Projects, an artists-run gallery combined studio.
”The idea was to develop a community, so it seemed obvious to include a cafe, where everyone in the building, as well as those in the surrounding offices, could meet,” Wardle says.
The cafe is LM&O, which stands for Lemon, Middle and Orange. It is fronted by a perforated steel screen, which speaks the language of a neighbouring factory.
A friend of Wardle’s found an old sign, thought to be from the 1950s, from Goodlass Wall & Co’s Bombay factory on eBay. Coincidently, the letters that form the name of the cafe also stand for the cafe owners’ names, Liam Ganley and Margaret Lawless.
”There’s also our own corporate colour in the mix,” says Wardle, referring to orange.
The main thing driving the design, a collaboration with Projects of the Imagination, was to celebrate the laneway that fronts the cafe.
Open at both ends with large glass and steel doors, LM&O features a simple palette of materials, including concrete-block walls, polished-concrete floors and fine Victorian ash joinery; the joinery is a hallmark of Wardle’s practice.
The cafe is 30 metres long and six metres wide. Wardle has loosely defined its spaces as a ”front porch” arrangement, an extension of the pavement.
And beyond the large glass and steel door is a continuous banquette, conceived as a series of strategies to accommodate uses such as seating and magazine racks.
People can either stand at the bench in the front courtyard or move inside to one of the tables. For larger gatherings, or even office meetings, there’s a dining table setting to the rear.
”We tend to use that space as another meeting room,” says Wardle, who also has two meeting rooms above, as well as a roof terrace, which doubles for functions.
On Top of the World was born out of textile designer Stewart Russell’s love of flags (Russell is from Spacecraft). Various commissions are displayed on the roof, and Wardle hosts monthly talks there.
”I wanted this place to become a focus in the area, as well as bring people into the building,” says Wardle, who also landscaped one of the adjoining laneways to include a vegetable garden.
Margaret Lawless, originally from Ireland, was keen to give the cafe a sense of her culture. So the menu includes soda bread and black pudding.
”The place has a distinctly Australian feel, but there’s a certain Irish twist,” says Lawless, who wanted a clean and minimal space in harmony with the light and streetscape.
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