Architecture Commercial Abbotsford , Australia

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10 Images

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1. Sacred Heart Building, Abbotsford Convent

The heritage shell prior to construction

3264 px 2448 px 2 MB Print - Low res only

2. Office from entry

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3. The Polypod

3000 px 2000 px 3 MB Print - Low res only

4. The Polypod

3000 px 2000 px 4 MB Print - Low res only

5. View to entry and heritage screen

3000 px 2000 px 4 MB Print - Low res only

6. Co-Lab and Greenery

3000 px 2000 px 3 MB Print - Low res only

7. The Polypod revealed

3000 px 2000 px 3 MB Print - Low res only

8. The Reading Nook

2000 px 3000 px 3 MB Print - Low res only

9. The Polypod interior

3000 px 2000 px 3 MB Print - Low res only

10. The CO-Lab tables

3648 px 5472 px 8 MB A3 print

1 Video

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polyglot movie


Polyglot is not corporate, it is not slick. It is not a polished new-materials-on-wall-ceiling-floor office fitout. Neither is it a normal warehouse conversion; industrial heritage polished up alongside detailed contemporary intervention. Instead it is a true palimpsest, a humble insertion into a heritage space that through careful zoning and layout of a design parti enhances what is there with what has been added, achieving maximum impact. Polyglot, a not-for-profit children's theatre company; with "children at the heart of our art". They approached us to help find a suitable site and interpret / extrapolate the brief into compliant grant documentation subsequently approved with a matched-funding model. The Sacred Heart building at Abbotsford Convent was the perfect fit, an alignment of philosophy and values. We helped select a soaring first-floor space with exposed trusses, peeling paint and lost tiles a palimpsest of the former young women's ward at the convent, complete with decorative metal bars still on the windows. An extraordinary space, light flooding in, with the curiosity of a beautiful pale yellow, teal and lavender screen in one corner and in the other corner pale yellow tiles. We articulated the dichotomy that although Polyglot is a company for children, this was to be an office for adults; yet we wanted to design a space with a sense of playfulness, wonder and joy. We wanted a design that was also socially-sustainable, with local or Australian-designed products sourced wherever possible, to align client values. And when we say tight budget, we mean extremely tight! The design solution is centred around; The Polypod. A bold curved polycarbonate boardroom pod designed to draw the eye across the space in an optical illusion that transforms the entire tenancy, giving maximum impact. At a more nuanced level there is actually a parti of 5 elements; 1.The Heritage Screen - Original feature! Lightly sanded, original pastel faded paint and heritage protected. Demarcates kitchen area, with lightly fixed joinery and heritage basins still visible underneath benchtops, original terrazzo below.
2. Reading Nook; Informal banquette setting defined by the heritage yellow tiles, utilising Australian-made Warwick fabric upholstery and Shaw-Contract carpet, with the unique adhesive system meeting the strict requirements of the heritage permit. 3. Co-Lab tables - Mobile collaboration tables fostering creative communication, the space defined by the bamboo cloches from Koskela, itself a socially-sustainable company. 4. Polypod - The boardroom pod clad in striking verticals of curved coloured polycarbonate and a stunning green interior that uncannily references the heritage colours of the space and is detailed to reinforce its sculptural nature. 5. The Greenery - The custom desks house a planter that defines the edge of the working zone, providing perceived privacy with the-well-acknowledged benefits and detoxification that indoor plants provide.

The Mr Kilty planter pots - a budget-friendly design classic from an Australian designer - use planting to define entry areas and mark circulation routes. Acoustic zoning allows for a graduation of noise and activity. The entire fit-out needed to "touch the floor" (and walls) lightly, needing approval from the building surveyor / Heritage Victoria, compliance with the heritage permit and conservation management plan. No recessed or flush-finish details were permitted, fixing for stability and ease of removal without leaving a mark non-negotiable.

The tender process involved negotiations with the preferred builder Sinjen, who approached the relationship in the spirit of partnership. With cooperation, determination and finessing, the key functional elements including ALL of the desks, co-lab tables and boardroom tables were custom made to a tight budget by their joiners and enhance the space, the pale smooth plywood furniture with feature black verticals a foil to the messiness of the heritage fabric. The Advanta boardoom chairs were sourced from one of the few locally-designed and made office chair suppliers in Australia to meet the tight budget in lieu of cheaper imported copies, and the remaining stools and chairs from a new Melbourne-based on-line startup. The only elements not locally sourced and designed were the desk chairs which were recycled from the old office. The sustainability of the fit-out is evident, with no expensive construction waste or excess of materials. The palimpsest approach is inherently sustainable. (*excluding tenancy floor, walls and base services).


Project size

200 m2

Site size

200 m2

Completion date


Building levels


Project team

mcmahon and nerlich