Sculptform Design Studio / Woods Bagot
Text description provided by the architects. Blurring the line between retail space and installation, Sculptform’s is a brilliant ‘working showroom’ case study for just how impactful design can be when local manufacturing and quality craftsmanship come together. Sculptform is a bespoke feature wall and ceiling manufacturer whose factory is in Bendigo (two hours from Melbourne). It makes sense to establish a statement showroom in central Melbourne to be physically closer to industry groups, other manufacturers and architectural collaborators. When Woods Bagot was invited to a design competition for the new showroom, the team threw caution to the wind and really got creative in their design response. They determined the space would be a testament to Sculptform’s expertise, design passion and craftsmanship philosophy.
The notion of showroom expanded to include a studio for co-creation—a celebration of making and a makers lab, a venue that connects the design community and becomes a place for experimenting, learning, and sharing ideas. The staff workspace, meeting rooms and collaboration spaces—initially briefed to be ‘out the back’—are brought into the open and arranged around the central making space that forms the heart of the project. Sculptform’s name inspired the design team to explore a concept that was both immersive and sculptural. The aspiration was to craft something truly extraordinary that would push the limits of the materials and the makers. The spatial arrangement, based on a large infinity gesture, curves and winds in a figure eight, creates a sculptural journey that sparks curiosity from the street.
With Sculptform as client, manufacturer and builder, the project was an opportunity to test details and really push what is possible with timber. A series of intensive design workshops gave rise to an early concept of a curving architectural insertion that leads people through the space in a curated way. The co-creation method also included frequent factory (Bendigo) and site (Melbourne) visits to ensure the most innovative solution. The sculptural timber-battened detailing effectively IS the space. It’s defined by a horizontal and vertical curving geometry, meticulously resolved through machinery acquired specifically to achieve the result, and from which Sculptform has introduced a new product range to its collection.
What visitors experience is a physical connection to Sculptform’s products, processes and their makers – something that can’t be found online. Encompassing much more than a typical retail offer, this is an immersive, experiential showroom, replete with a high-tech digital gallery and display for full scale product samples. There is a workspace for the team, a glazed workshop that puts on show the process of creating custom products, and an addition that Woods Bagot brought to the brief—an event-orientated amphitheatre.
The showroom operates as an authentic marketing tool for Sculptform’s brand. Removing the line between front and back of house allows architects and designers to work and co-create in the space alongside their own clients and contractors. Linking its city-based clients with its regional manufacturing site, Sculptform’s showroom reduces the need for travel, highlights Sculptform’s own product and expertise, and is fully recyclable. Set within a ground level tenancy at the base of a tower, the showroom provides a curious new landmark installation—at night, integrated lighting emphasises the drama of the curving timber forms creating what is essentially a “billboard to the street”—and also shows that working within an existing building envelope can produce showstopping results when thinking outside the box.