Fusing student ingenuity with professional expertise, Studiobird with nine Monash interior architecture students has re-conceived Fiat Chrysler’s Melbourne showroom into a spectacular retail experience. Alice Blackwood reports.
August 8th, 2014
It was a little bit fluke and a little bit strategy that sparked the beginnings of Fiat Chrysler’s Melbourne showroom renovation. The automobile group, whose Melbourne headquarters are situated in Port Melbourne, was in need of a showroom overhaul but the inspiration was yet to come.
A serendipitous meeting on the grounds of Monash University’s Monash Art Design & Architecture (MADA) faculty saw Interior Architecture lecturer, Dr Matthew Bird of Studiobird, and Fiat Chrysler formulate a unique project approach.
Dr Matthew Bird, photograph by 3Deep
“Fiat Chrysler were looking for something exceptional and provocative. They were after an experiential space [that was] not so object driven, but more about spatial experience,” says Dr Bird, whose architectural firm Studiobird headed up the project.
The company was also keen to work with students, capturing their fresh and imaginative conceptual thinking and feeding this directly into the project. Interior architecture students were invited to submit concepts for the Fiat Chrysler showroom, with three collaborative groups’ submissions selected for further development.
In a grand gesture from Fiat Chrysler, the global company generously hosted the winning students (nine in all) on a combined art and study tour to expand their design consciousness. The tour encompassed everything from a trip to Turin, looking at cars and meeting car designers, to admiring the architecture of Italy’s famous contemporary design metropolis, Milan.
Fully immersed in the Fiat Chrysler culture, Dr Bird and his nine collaborators applied their concepts to form the “signature idea”, which was then interlaced by two supporting concepts.
The language of the project, says Dr Bird, is defined by colour. “A “Frida” blue was developed by Porters Paint for the project,” he says. The bright colour symbolising the merging of Chrysler from the United States with Fiat from Italy – the latter represented by a concrete grey.
A stroke of ingenuity on the students’ part, the showroom features a Fiat 500 wall mural with laser cut and powder-coated chevron blocks applied to a chevron pattern. Paying homage to the company’s host of brands is a 45 metre-long car showroom wall mural incorporating historic and current images of Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Dodge and Abarth cars. The colour scheme continues with wallpaper tinted blue to grey.
Completing the overall showroom experience are special details like metallic blue mirror glazing, an upholstered leather wall (produced in collaboration with NSR Automotive Interiors), and custom made red Abarth car seats.
Dr Bird, who led the project and “steered the ship” (so to speak) with both pragmatism and experience, says the students’ active involvement in the project was an invaluable opportunity. The highlight: “seeing their eyes open up” on what was, for some, their first time travelling outside of Australia.
Photography: Peter Bennetts
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