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Sydney Story Factory and Martian Embassy

The Sydney Story Factory and Martian Embassy by LAVA bring a touch of fantasy to Redfern, we sent Elana Castle to explore

Sydney Story Factory and Martian Embassy


July 23rd, 2012

The proverbial Martians have landed, establishing their own embassy at the Sydney Story Factory in Redfern. What sounds like the product of an over-active imagination, is in fact a space odyssey-themed, creative writing centre for underprivileged and marginalised youth.

Catherine Keenan, a co-founder and executive director of Sydney Story Factory was inspired to launch the centre after watching a TED video about the 826 Valencia, a not-for-profit writing centre established in San Francisco in 2002.

“We are offering the young people of Redfern and beyond, (the centre is open to all), a place to explore their own imaginations, ” explains Keenan. “It’s a place where creativity is nurtured . . . where writing is exciting and fun.”

There are eight chapters in the US and one in London, each location fronted by a uniquely-themed gift shop. The Sydney centre is the first of its kind in Australia but follows a similar strategy, its gift shop aimed at generating revenue for the centre.

The theme for the Sydney store is a Martian Embassy, an idea initiated by creative collaborators, The Glue Society , Will O’Rourke and endorsed by children of all ages. Keenan enlisted the help of LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture), to design the physical space, charging Chris Bosse, the Asia Pacific director with the Martian-inspired design.

’We had a lot of fun creating the first diplomatic mission from inner space’, says Bosse.

Bosse saw the design as a trigger to spark, develop and enhance the creativity and imaginations of the users.

“Using a fluid geometry merging the three program components – embassy, school and shop – a computer model was sliced and ’nested’ into build-able components,” explains Bosse.

The team used yacht-building and ironically, space industry techniques to develop a giant 1068-piece jigsaw puzzle of CNC-cut, lime-green edged plywood “ribs”. Together they form a seamless, undulating and intimate, three dimensional environment, reminiscent of a whale’s belly, a time machine or space rocket.

The space was further enhanced by a complex lighting and sound system, the latter designed by a dedicated team at Arup using Philips technology.

Alongside the Martian paraphernalia – Martian passports, alien currency, cans of gravity and abduction kits – Bosse has included low stools with lime green legs, bespoke plywood joinery items and “spacey” Vitra sanitary-ware fittings. An added extra is a small courtyard at the rear, providing much needed cross ventilation and external break-out space.


Photography: Brett Boardman  + Peter Murphy



The Glue Society


Will O’Rourke




Redwood Projects


The Sydney Story Factory


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