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Elana Castle discovers the transformation of a once-hidden volume of inner city real estate into a space-defying cafe.



November 12th, 2013

“I’m interested in the relationship between place making and urban activation,” explains Brolly Studios co-founder and architect Martin Heide.  “I think that it’s important to create spaces that give back to the city.”


Heide, an award-winning graduate of RMIT known in design circles for PlayMo – the temporary, interactive installation constructed in a Melbourne city laneway from discarded milk crates – is the creative force behind one of Melbourne’s most urban-centric cafes.


Heide, who works with design partner Megg Evans, is equally obsessed with “leftover” and “hidden” city spaces.  As if by design, the pair recently discovered that the partition walls and suspended ceilings in their own studio on La Trobe Street, concealed a large volume of usable space.  “It was like drilling for oil,” laughs Heide.  “But in our case we discovered more and more space the further we drilled!”


Heide and Evans decided to turn 20 sqm of their newly acquired space into a street-facing cafe, which the pair now jointly run, in addition to their own studio.   An intimate three level interior, the space features a series of plywood clad nooks formed around a number of stairs and platforms.  “The cafe makes use of every bit of available space,” says Heide.  “We even carved into the thickness of walls, creating, a range of seating options including flip-up / drop-down bench seating, external booths and lots of additional storage space.”


Aside from detailing every inch of the space, the pair also constructed most of the cafe themselves, using a small team of contractors to assemble their carefully conceived “kit of parts” where necessary.   Detailed elements also include the pair’s signature Press Stools, which feature recycled newspapers and magazines sandwiched between pieces of reclaimed plyboard.  “They are decorative but very functional,” adds Heide, “and arose out of desire to make something useful out of objects that are frequently discarded.”


Brolly Studios

Photography: Tanja Milbourne

Flipboard Cafe

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