Aussie Rules

By Ruth Kennelly

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Forma Interiors Magazine, Volume 4 Issue 1

When Anna Anchor of Scott Tallon Walker Architects began work on the fit out of the 7th floor of Fitzwilton House for the Australian Embassy the design brief was clear; no ‘Fosters’, just a high-quality finish to reflect the corporate identity of the embassy.

With work commencing in July the entire floor was gutted and refitted by October – a remarkably short deadline given the ubiquitous August holiday period and the distance that some of the materials had to travel.

As explained by the client John Doull (First Secretary and Consul of the Australian Embassy) the embassy no longer needs to provide all of the functionsit once did and as a result could dispose of some the square footage it occupied. “Modern technology is taking over, you can now apply for a visa on the Internet”. This ‘downsizing’ also obliterated the need for the large public waiting rooms normally associated with visa processing and in turn afforded the designers the freedom to experiment with a fluid flexible space.

Many of the pieces are Aboriginal and were provided by The Art Bank, a government organisation in Australia that buys from native artists and leases on the work to various consular buildings both nationally and internationally

Fitzwilton House is a long narrow 1950’s building so the priority of the design was to facilitate the spread of natural light within the building. Some of the offices, such as the Ambassador’s, are flanked on two fronts by large windows with views that stretch from Howth to Bray head providing an excellent source of daylight. The daylight penetrates deep into the interior through the extensive use of a new fully-glazed Italian partitioning system from Well plan called Adotta.

The most innovative aspect of the Adotta system, which has been detailed by Italian Architects, is to do with its frame section. Various joint connections allow glass and wooden panels to be linked together at a range of angles. The glass panels, which are made up of two 5mm glass sheets bonded together by a resin-based plastic, provides both excellent sound insulation and shock resistance.

Naturally what with the nature of the client’s business security was of primary importance in the overall scheme. The client wanted a high-security building without the feeling of restriction. In response Anna created a ballistic-rated reception area complete with bullet-proof doors which she softened with maple veneer.

Australia based Boral Hardwood Flooring supplied all of the Sydney Blue Gum Timber that was used for the flooring throughout the embassy and on a feature wall in the reception. New to Ireland Sydney Blue Gum is a species of eucalyptus wood similar in appearance to walnut but with redder tones; a colour that has been perfectly echoed in the reception area by the red leather sofas it shares the space with.

The reception area also contains a movable wall which when folded back opens directly into a space with a bar that is perfect for entertaining large groups, and an adjacent room that serves as an official interview room by day becomes a complementary cloakroom by night. The colour of the Jarrah timber that is used on the bar and the reception desk perfectly balances the two sides of this large multifunctional space while continuing the trend of utilizing native Australian timbers within the interior.

Lighting is provided by way of recessed 600 x 600 modular fittings with a diffuser that directs the light upwards, dispersing it across the ceiling plane and minimising screen glare. Dermot Conway of Bob Bushell, who provided all of the lighting for the interior, explains how this “form of indirect illumination has been developed to keep pace with computer technology”. In addition to the modular units, freestanding up lighters soften any tense atmosphere that might exist in the various interview rooms around the office.

Australian artwork features throughout the embassy, dramatically punctuating the cool modern interior while reflecting the ethnicity of the organisation and the colours of the Australian landscape. Many of the pieces are Aboriginal and were provided by The Art Bank, a government organisation in Australia that buys from native artists and leases on the work to various consular buildings both nationally and internationally – just one of many unique features that sets this project apart from it’s contemporaries.

 

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