Branch Studio Architects has designed The Quad Canteen a space that has the potential to be more than just a canteen.
July 7th, 2017
Branch Studio Architects, canteen, school, education, cafeteria, architecture, design
With beige tiles, pastel yellow walls, ad-hoc laminate joinery and stainless steel railings, the cafeteria at Caroline Chisholm College in Braybrook, Victoria, was a “tired and run-down tribute to the 1990s,” says Brad Wray of Branch Studio Architects. “This was not a place for social interaction and gathering nor did it have any connection to the adjacent landscaped quadrangle.” Given a fairly open-ended brief, Branch Studio designed the new Quad Canteen to facilitate social interaction, expose students to good design and to create a space that has the potential to be more than just a school canteen.
Referencing Alvar Aalto’s Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and Carlo Scarpa’s Olivetti Showroom in Venice for inspiration, Branch Studio’s design concept centred on what Brad describes as “a carved-out wooden cavern come Venetian restaurant (but absolutely not in a post-modern/Vegas sense).” The cafeteria opens to the quadrangle while timber-batten and glass-blocks walls snake around the perimeter of the space. Communal tables, intimate booth seats, bar seating and conventional table arrangements offer different opportunities for social interaction, “and a range of options for the varying requirements and personalities of individual students,” says Brad.
The booths are clad in easy-to-clean black formply and green and black rope screens divide the space while not limiting passive surveillance. “In our education projects we have found that if students are given something nice, they generally respect it. So we like to push the boundaries but are sure to make it fool and vandal proof for the most part,” Brad explains. Exploring the Danish tradition of rope and cord in furniture making, the rope partitions transform a generic material into something richer, with the form inspired by Carlo Scarpa’s bronze and copper screening devices and the layered composition by Josef Albers’ graphic works of the early 1940s.
Chairs include off-the-shelf seating as well as Dowel Jones’ timber and metal Hurdle chairs. “Incorporating local products in educational projects exposes students to good contemporary design outside of the current questionable ‘contemporary’ furniture seen in most school environments these days,” says Brad. Branch Studio also used off-the-shelf table bases and designed custom tabletops (layered plywood with laminate) to unify the furniture and built-in components. Danish pendants emit a subdued and atmospheric light and three landscape photographs by Peter Clarke complement the rope screens and joinery.
A larger volume of students and staff are now using the new Quad Canteen, which has become a primary hub for eating, studying and socialising. “When the bell rings for lunch and recess the space is flooded by students enjoying their environment and engaging with something more than just a table and four chairs,” Brad says. And as a result the college is looking to introduce a healthier menu, and using the space as a venue for major social events, dinners and executive lunches with the potential use of it after hours and on weekends.
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