Higher Ground Melbourne by DesignOffice | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne by DesignOffice | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne by DesignOffice | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne by DesignOffice | Yellowtrace

 

Oh yeah baby! Today’s story comes courtesy of all-star players in Melbourne‘s enviable and burgeoning dining slash design scene, and we are super lucky to give you an exclusive first look at what’s set to become another hospitality smash-hit. Higher Ground is a brand new all-day dining destination on the western edge of Melbourne’s CBD, which officially opens next week. DesignOffice were commissioned by Nathan Toleman and the team behind the hugely successful Top Paddock and The Kettle Black, to create a new all day food & drink destination near the Southern Cross Station. The extraordinary site is a former power station, re-imagined to create six new connected levels which wrap around the perimeter of the original brick building, delivering a suite of intimate spaces.

The design approach was anchored around the creation of a series of tiered platforms, providing both intimacy and layered perspective within the extensive volume of the site. The new architectural interventions are designed to sit with deliberate tension between the existing brick and concrete forms. Midnight blue staircases are expressed as confident geometric steel forms abutting the soaring columns which support the residential development above. The rich and tactile palette combines terrazzo, cork, painted steel, stone, black fibre board and solid timbers to define and anchor each setting. Layers of planting, rugs, furniture and lighting inhabit the levels to provide a range of seating options for customers from morning through to the evening.

We had a quick chat to Mark Simpson from DesignOffice about this superb project. I must high-five Mark for being so honest and forthcoming with his answers, especially about lessons learned, what the team would’ve done differently etc. It takes a dead-set legend and a confident designer to be so frank in their answers. Huge respect and an “extreme love” badge from me.

 

Related Story: Interview // DesignOffice.

 

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

 

+ What was your design inspiration for this project – i.e was it a result of client’s brief, a particular concept or an idea etc?

The clients brief called for us to create the feeling of a hotel lobby – a space which can be occupied in a number of ways by different people at varying times of day. The main challenge this posed to us was how to create intimacy in such a vast space without breaking it up and losing the quality of the space.

+ Your favourite thing about this project?

It has to be the way in which the levels interact with each other. The space was just a single volume with a concrete floor when we first visited site. We pulled in tables, chairs and tool boxes and used an existing scaffold to test the feeling of sitting and standing at different levels in order to work out the optimum relationships between the platforms. We have something of an obsession with playing with stairs and the dynamics of level changes and the nuance of this is what makes the space work for us. The ascension of the platforms is deliberately anchored to the perimeter to create a tension with the existing structure and give customers a sense of discovery and journey. The qualities of the different levels and furniture settings provide a range of environments tailored to different people’s needs at varying times of day.

 

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

 

+ Most challenging aspect?

The things you don’t see! The existing concrete slab was not designed to allow for load-bearing structure and didn’t have provision for toilets, water supply or drainage. There was also no provision for air conditioning or kitchen exhaust which are obviously critical for the site to work. We spent a lot of time trying to solve these problems and integrate the services and structure in a way which doesn’t dominate the space.

+ What did you learn during the project?

We learnt a lot about the nuances of hospitality service and operational systems from working with Nathan, Ben, Kim, Diamond, Sam, Nate and their team. We always invest a lot of time in detailed briefing and it was great working with an operator who really understands the principles of their service model and how they want the floor to work; both for their customers and their staff. I’ve also learnt quite a few new plant names from Nathan’s green finger!

+ Would you have done anything differently?

We commissioned Scottie Cameron to come and take some photos of the building site a few weeks before completion. It’s something we’ve done a few times as its so easy to forget the lengthy process that goes into projects like this. In hindsight, I really wish we’d done it at an earlier point as well. It would have been great to have documented the strange part in the middle of construction where the site was just a series of tiered platforms that without enough context to be legible!

 

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

 

+ Any interesting/ funny/ quirky facts you could tell us?

01 / Just that huge sense of relief when you see a space like this full of people for the first time and know that they are not all on the ground floor! We spent a lot of time trying to design the varying levels so that there wasn’t a sense of upstairs and downstairs and there was a certain sense of relief to arrive and see that most people had made their way to the top platform and were cascading back down from there. It was the same experience a few years ago when we designed the stair for the Cult furniture showroom in Melbourne. No matter how much experience you have there is still that slight element of the unknown about trying to create intuitive circulation and crafting spaces and routes that invite people to move vertically.

02 / Despite many tests, we still didn’t quite get the dense blue colour of the stairs right the first time. We had to go and buy the new paint ourselves and bribe the painter with a bottle of whisky to change the colour before the top coat went on.

03 / There’s also a curious custom artwork hiding something which is altogether not artistic! The kitchen required a huge upgrade to the power which resulted in the addition of an enormous distribution board half way through the build right in direct view. We commissioned a painted artists canvas to hide it so it was something of a relief when I didn’t even notice it when I went back to site.

 

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace

Higher Ground Melbourne | Yellowtrace


[Images and drawings courtesy of DesignOffice. Photography by Sean Fennessy.]

 

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor
Google+

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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