Lawless & Meyerson strips back Heritage building for new office

Oct 20, 2020
  • Article by Elisa Scarton

Lawless & Meyerson stripped back to “reveal the beauty and scars” of the existing building fabric in its new office in Sydney.

Located in the former Wilsons Steam Laundry in a Heritage-listed warehouse in the heart of Surry Hills, the space spans two levels and is shared by the studio and architecture firm MHNDU.

When designing the new office, Lawless & Meyerson left the building’s brick walls and timber ceilings “raw” and “natural” in an effort to celebrate the exisiting Heritage essence.

Layers of past renovations were preserved in the brickwork and timber, and the old terrazzo and concrete floors restored.

“The idea was to make the space look like it had always been there. Everything had to look like it had just been brought in and placed, nothing built in,” explains the studio.

“The fit-out was secondary. It needed to take a back step and let the history do the talking by exploiting the imperfections.”

The new office, which is called Richard’s Lane, has been shortlisted for the IDEA 2020 Workplace Under 1000sqm category. The project also earned the studio a spot as a finalist for this year’s Emerging Designer award.

As the building is Heritage-listed, walls could not be modified, so Lawless & Meyerson worked with a tight budget to fit the entry, reception, kitchen, lounge and meetings rooms, along with its own studio on the existing ground floor. MHNDU was housed on the second floor.

Glass and steel doors were added into existing openings to create meeting areas with large steel portals to emphasise the 400mm thick walls.

A white and black palette dominates the space with whitewashed brick walls within the studio contrasting the grey terrazzo floor and exposed ceiling beams.

Minimal furnishings are used in the entry spaces, while in the lounge, a palette of greys and blacks is interrupted by a terracotta leather sofa.

A similar palette has been employed in the kitchen, which features black laminate cabinets and a stainless steel island.

“Our goal was to create an open, relaxed office environment for ourselves our clients and visitors,” Lawless & Meyerson explains.

“The heart of the office is the kitchen. It gets a thorough work out every day and was designed for practicality, and also looks like it’s been inserted into the space.”

Lawless & Meyerson designed a large glass and steel partition to divide the two meeting rooms and let the light filter through into one of the rooms, which would have otherwise had no natural light.

In the other, a partition is created by a soft beige curtain, separating the work desks from a small marble table and white storage unit.

Desks were positioned in the centre of the spaces with nothing touching the walls and with windows overlooking the park.

“The space has transformed the way both practices operate,” concludes the studio.

“It’s a beautiful space to come to everyday, and we have noticed increased productivity and wellbeing and decreased illness/time away.”

Lawless&Meyerson was established in September 2015 by interior designer Jo Lawless and architect Brian Meyerson. It provided in-house interior design under the umbrella of Meyerson’s architectural firm MHNDU before transitioning into a stand-alone brand.

Photography: Dave Wheeler.

Global practice Grimshaw also recently completed its own Heritage project – the 40-storey Olderfleet commercial tower, merging Melbourne heritage with contemporary workplace architecture

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