An historic Watchmaker shop in Smith Street Collingwood was transformed into a major exhibition space as part of National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Design Week in March. The project was a collaboration between FOLK Architects, National Gallery of Victoria, Piccolina Gelateria, Hub Furniture and Laminex.

The satellite venue hosted seven significant exhibitions: The Found Object, curated by Jaci Foti-Lowe of Hub Furniture; Ovoid by Nick Horan; Untitled by Coco and Maximilian commissioned by Piccolina Gelateria; ‘26 Original Fakes’ by Friends and Associates; ‘Undervalued’ by Nick Rennie; ‘Apparatus 4’ by 227768C; and The Watchmaker, site specific installation space by FOLK Architects.

FOLK Architects director, Christie Petsinis, said a key feature of the design was a freestanding installation that highlighted the existing condition of the site, revealing elements of its past as a pawn shop, jewellery store and ‘watchmaker’.

“The ‘Watchmaker’ site in itself is a record of time. The rawness of the existing site exposes the transformations the building has endured and the lasting markings left by its former occupants. The exhibition design seeks to bridge preservation of the existing fabric with interventions that can isolate and emphasise the works on display while capturing the spirit of time they embody. An important aspect of the building is the glass and mirrored vestibule that marks the entrance from Smith Street. With the original neon ‘Watchmaker’ sign hovering above, we created a transitional space with mirrors which reflects your image infinitely. This passage has a transformative effect, exaggerating the contrast between Smith Street and the stillness of the site inside.”

As an architectural device, the mirrored surfaces were used to dissolve the physical boundaries of the space, reinforcing focus on elements of the existing building, and on the exhibition. Used to manipulate and distort our experience of time and space, mirrors also act as a way-finding device.


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[Images courtesy of FOLK Architects. Photography by Peter Bennetts.]


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