The home of architecture and design in Asia-Pacific

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Coming home to the creative incubator: ACMI by Warren and Mahoney

In Melbourne’s Fed Square, the ACMI team is now working under one roof in a colourful new space home to co-working residents and museum staff.

Coming home to the creative incubator: ACMI by Warren and Mahoney

It’s with good reason that the move to Fed Square is viewed as a homecoming for ACMI, a multiplatform museum navigating the world of film, TV, videogames and art. The institution has a thriving calendar of exhibitions, screenings, commissions, festivals, industry, touring and education programmes but, as a workplace, it was previously spread across two separate locations. Museum staff were on-site with the standard office elsewhere, but that’s all changed with Warren and Mahoney’s completed design promoting even greater collaboration and connectedness across team ACMI. 

“[The project] led us to a deeper understanding of ACMI’s cultural drivers and the importance of prioritising the concept of ‘creativity on display’ – across both the creative incubator and its in-museum home for staff,” explains Warren and Mahoney Principal, Tamara White. Indeed, if this project were to be summarised in one word, it would probably be ‘creative’ (if two, ‘creative incubator’).

“One of the best anecdotes from the initial workshop was from a member of the team who said, ‘I come here as an accountant but leave as a creative,’” says White. “The whole workplace was designed to connect people to what they do and engage them in the process because, ultimately, everybody who works there contributes in some way to these creative expressions and outcomes.”

Creativity in one form or another is what forms the common ground of the ACMI workplace. Talking about that and collaboration, however, is one thing; making it happen through design is another altogether. The team at Warren and Mahoney has certainly made use of colour in this project, but it’s in the nitty gritty of spatial planning that the concepts are realised.

“Spatially, I think the creativity really manifested itself in how we planned the environment,” says Senior Interior Designer, David Hoad. “We placed the co-working/residency space at the very heart, and then the ACMI team is positioned around the perimeter to encourage engagement and cross-pollination.”

The Warren and Mahoney designers speak about their theme of ‘Dark Horse’ for the project: “It’s really about revealing creativity and creating quite a layered environment in which you almost get a glimpse behind the scenes of what the ACMI team do,” says Hoad. Providing glimpses on one hand, the design drives as a whole towards expressions of visual and cultural openness. Some of the hosting areas, for example, are positioned prominently, expressing transparency.

Related: Estée Lauder Companies HQ by Davenport Campbell

Hoad explains how the ‘Dark Horse’ narrative comprises a series of ‘Acts’ defined by “a range of modes for usage: teamwork, quiet work, ad hoc encounters and technical collaboration – even in a hybrid working model.

“Act One is about responding intuitively to the character of Fed Square’s architecture, and working with the outlook, natural light and iconic facade geometry. Act Two is a grounded creative incubator for co-working residents at the heart of the floorplate, which is where the ACMI story unfolds. Its purpose is to physically collide new and existing residents within the ACMI team, intentionally blending staff to encourage the cross-pollination of ideas and ignite the cultural spark that ACMI is renowned for.

“Act Three is about creating strategic access to high-performing spaces that offer the essential tools to cultivate the best creative output. Core technologies, acoustics and social anchors are significant considerations.”

Warren and Mahoney also draws attention to the approach of seeking out value-driven, sustainable solutions alongside the strengthening of community ties. Locally sourced furniture, materials and suppliers include Ross Gardam-designed furniture from Stylecraft, pieces from DesignByThem, and carpets from Milliken’s Yuludarla Collection featuring a contemporary interpretation of Gumbaynggirr Artist, Brentyn Lugnan’s work.

Meanwhile, a local First Nations artist, Lisa Waup, has been commissioned to design a curtain that to help define the collaboration space which will be installed in the coming weeks. “It was practical, functional and acoustic, but also a way for us to layer in First Nations stories unique to ACMI,” says White.

The use of colour is clearly a standout feature of the project, but for White and Hoad it’s particularly in the way that its vibrancy relates to and intensifies the simple, efficient materials that have driven value for the project.

“It feels like we’ve created a space where ACMI feels ownership. We’re seeing engagement with the space and people actually use the elements that were designed for functionality and to support the culture,” says White.

“It’s really nice to see a client move into their home and fully embrace it.”

ACMI Head of Technical Services, Aaron Hock, says the project has delivered in numerous ways: “Working with Warren and Mahoney has been a rewarding collaboration. They’ve worked with ACMI to deliver a functional, contemporary design that puts creativity on display in a workplace designed for collaboration. Relocating our team from Southbank to the museum – alongside our galleries, studios, cinemas and labs – is helping us to drive stronger connections across ACMI through greater collaboration and cross-pollination between our staff, co-working residents and our Fed Square colleagues. The new design was presciently optimised for the kind of hybrid working practices that have become the norm in recent times.”

Warren and Mahoney

Nicole England

Read on: Studio Edwards’ zero-waste workplace in Melbourne.

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed


You're about to read an INDESIGN exclusive article.

Fill out your details below for quick access to this story.

Please note: by submitting this form you will be added to the mailing list.