“We were conscious of the budget from the outset so we’ve kept as much of the original structure as possible,” says Furey.
One of the most dramatic changes to the building was draping the western and northern facades with reptilian zinc tiles.
Given the predominantly western aspect, the entrance and facade feature new tinted glass windows and door.
And to offer privacy, there’s a 45-degree-angle drape of the tiles.
“Our client didn’t want to feel like being in a goldfish bowl,” says Furley, who added a singular tree in new garden bed to add another layer to the tiles. That approach to the landscape is also quite Japanese.”
Fabric Architecture also included concealed LED lights behind these tiles to animate the building with various colours at night, as well as accentuating its new form.
While the former interior layout has only been tweaked, it presents as an entirely new office fit-out.
At ground level, closest to the street, is the general meeting area for clients.
A small seating area has also been added.
A new breezeblock wall, four metres long and 1.5 metres high, loosely divides the meeting area from the more social part of the office, where drinks can be served.
From the outset for this project, the word “flexibility” was used.
“The place could easily be transformed into a cafe or a retail offering down the track so the design had to be fairly fluid,” says Furey.
However, the same fine detailing of the new facade has been applied to the interior walls of the double-height space at the front of the building. Here, new fibrocement tiles with a waffle-style grid have been applied to the walls and ceiling. These tiles not only add texture to the space but also create thermal insulation from the western sunlight.
Fabric Architecture also touched the building lightly in other respects – a new set of timber stairs were provided for the open-plan offices on the mezzanine level (while still maintaining for views to the office below), and the area to the rear of the ground floor was rationalised to increase storage space.
Other elements, such as an original door used for the squash courts bearing the number 2, have simply been repurposed.
Darby Street is certainly not trying to emulate Aoyama. However, for those who haven’t been fortunate enough to travel there, it’s a modest gesture to this famous shopping strip in Tokyo, as much as a dynamic new intervention on this well-travelled path in Newcastle.