Winner 2019: Sydney Design Awards, Shortlist 2019: Australian Interior Design Awards | Inde.Awards

The Portico

Charter Hall
Architectural & Interiors
Charter Hall, Tyrone Branigan

Brief: To create a vibrant and flexible new tenant’s hub, co-working  and event space to act as collective office breakout for the vertical community of businesses at No. 1 Martin Place in Sydney’s centre, and activate an area previously under-utilised.

Challenges: Working with the historically sensitive fabric of a Sydney heritage icon – the General Post Office – and surrounding streetscape to create a front of house for a commercial building with a sense of civic life.

Solutions: Design of a unique ceiling, spiral stair and moveable joinery to signal, intrigue and invite passersby into the space, and accommodate new functions that give people reason to stay, take refuge and meet. The Portico is an identifiable front of house for tenants and the public, sparking intrigue and delight, and a break from the ordinary.

Highlights: Working with a fantastic client that put their faith in the design team to deliver what is a complete transformation and creation of a new type of collective space for commercial buildings. 

More from the architect

Introducing The Portico: A sense of everyday wonder at No.1 Martin Place

Stroll along the prestigious pedestrian spine of Martin Place in the  heart of Sydney’s CBD, in the shadows of the classical arches of the grand GPO, and you’ll discover a new treasure – The Portico. This under-utilised mezzanine level has been transformed into a tenant’s hub, cafe, gallery event and co-working space, and it’s now open for business…and play.

In our initial design pitch to client Charter Hall we envisaged the mezzanine as a portico, a semi-public front of house, and a place to get to know your neighbours – all under an undulating canopy of dowel. We imagined a welcoming place to linger and slow down, a refreshing retreat from bustling Pitt Street while visually connecting and extending a sense of public life inwards into the mezzanine and foyer. 

We let the qualities of the existing space guide our approach to architectural planning. Meeting, co-working, eating, drinking and social spaces activate the glazing perimeter and link to life on the street. Dead spaces become nooks for larger gatherings and events, while thoroughfares become spaces for people to order coffee, perch for a quick bite, tap out an email and watch the flow of people coming and going.

A staircase from foyer level was proposed to scoop people up from street level and deliver them into a warm and welcoming place for people to meet. To slow people’s movement through the space and create intimacy and calm, a vaulted ceiling made up of dowels creates a rhythm of undulating forms that reference the classical elegance of the GPO. A flexible gallery space with sliding screens displays artworks from local collectives, the screens can be re-arranged to enclose workshop space.

Following a design competition, the client selected a design team consisting of Adriano Pupilli Architects and Siren Design, combining differing and complementary skills and approaches, engaging with client and stakeholder groups, and co-designing the scheme and taking it into construction.

After intensive workshopping of the design with tenants and other end users, different modes of use were established. Together with an amazing team of consultants, industry experts and suppliers, we created a blueprint for a flexible and modular fit-out that transforms the space as needs dictate – a truely adaptable space that is constantly changing in response to people’s needs, time of day and the seasons.

The Portico is a memorable front of house, a place to linger, be inspired to think differently and get to know your neighbours. It is about engaging with, and drawing to its heart, the social life around it – and letting it dwell under one big timber blanket.

Special thanks go to our very own Matthew Ryall and Venesa Buljubasic (team Siren Design) for working tirelessly on this project. Their attention to detail that has brought this incredible space into being. Thanks to our client, Charter Hall, for their vision and courage in doing things differently and taking that leap of faith with us!

Thanks also to our talented consultant team DJC Consulting, Koskela, David Becker, Partridge Engineers, Wood and Grieve Engineers, Steve Watson and Partners, POMT, CBRE, and Macquarie Group who worked closely with us in achieving the design intent.
On the construction and fabrication side, thanks to Graphite Projects for expertly heading the build, Michael from Keystone, Rob from Charles Heath Steel, Better Built, Mark from Studio Ham, Byron from Urban Growers, Porta, Richard from Fish4U and the many others that made the project happen. Photos by Tyrone Branigan unless otherwise noted.

If you are in the area drop in and stay awhile at The Portico.