Design, space and reflection

The West Australian

20th November 2013.

This column, nutured by architectural practice Pendal and Neille, will turn three in March. The opening article discussed a series of significant examples of new civic architecture, part of Perth’s potential return to thoughtful city making.

We did not foresee the capacity of these projects to encourage young talent in architecture, landscape and urban making to remain in Perth rather than flee to other capitals of design.

One such pairing, Beth George and Nic Brunsdon of Spacemarket, gained attention because of their capacity to breathe life into worthy but forgotten parts of our city that appeared too fraught to be resuscitated via conventional forms of practice. Known for the King Street Studio and the re-imagined Moana Chambers, their work has recently shifted scale significantly, culminating in the re-phrasing and curation of the former Myer department store in Fremantle.

With support from the City of Fremantle and the open mindedness of building owners Sirona Capital, this mute, unoccupied megastructure has been brought to life.

Spacemarket argues that we must have two cities operating concurrently. On the one hand, there is the need for the unchanging but essential basic stock of the city that supports a healthy metropolitan population. Within this, we need a second, nimble city, one that is responsive to global change and to the peculiarities of its locale, the immersive city of curated contingency.

It is within the role of this second, nimble city that Spacemarket’s former Myer store resides. Currently supporting bespoke retail and artisan’s workshops on ground and first floors, its basement, second floor and rooftop are soon to open with gallery, function centre, sport and dance facilities, a garden, a bar and rooftop festival terrace. This is no pop-up store but an incubator of design talent and aesthetic motivation. Under the careful eye of its curators it is destined to invent and reinvent itself throughout its existence as a cultural institution founded upon the essence of orchestrated change. It supports bespoke retailers selling beautiful wares, allows local artisans to (visibly) fabricate in-situ and, within its sublime floorplates and gargantuan rooftop, it hosts exhibitions and events.

It strikes me that it will be the byproducts of this fledgling institute that will become equally significant. As an idea and a thing, it is nothing short of genius. What it represents for the future is a portal back into the former of the two cities for its current tenants, allowing them to find their stable place within the stock of the city and in so doing, causing it to be fundamentally enriched.

It will allow the next generation of designers, makers and aesthetic aspirants to find their voice and bring forth their specific colour.

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