Resurrecting Karl Langer’s beautiful Fortitude Valley furniture showroom.
August 12th, 2009
Queensland firm Riddel Architecture has resurrected a piece of Fortitude Valley’s architectural history with 620 Wickham St.
Originally designed by architect Karl Langer in 1953 to house Laurie West’s contemporary furniture showroom, the retail space has since served myriad uses. Most of Langer’s design had become gradually hidden over time.
When the property came up for auction in 2008 Robert Riddel, principal, knew it was something he had to take on. “The building was known to me when I was a school boy and its style and contents were a fascination,” he says. “It was one of the reasons that I wanted to become an architect.”
This project was not to be one of modernisation, but of true, accurate restoration. The firm researched every detail of the original design, hunting down working drawings, held at the John Oxley library, as well as getting detailed descriptions of finishes and details from Laurie West, the building’s original owner.
“Karl Langer, the original architect, used a number of elements in all his work. Those themes included natural daylight to interiors, gardens and the use of water inside and out. These elements are all present and provide the character which seems so current,” Riddel says.
Without a heritage listing, the architect felt it was unlikely the building would have survived without such an extensive restoration project.
Staying true to Langer’s vision, Riddel retained unique design features, including the sloped glass shopfront, shaped light wells and fishponds at the front of the building. New office space and parking was added at the rear of the building.
“Although the original use as a furniture showroom would be ideal, the space is suitable for many other uses because of its open contemporary style,” says Riddel.
“Many observers cannot believe the transformation that has taken place is actually a reconstruction of what was there before.”
Photography: Christopher Frederick Jones, Furniture supplied by Great Dane, Easton Pearson rugs by Designer Rugs
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