Project Team

Design: Herbert Mason


Furniture: Herbert & Mason
Lighting: Herbert & Mason, Euroluce

Photography: Florian Groehn

Reuben Hills is located in an existing 2 storey brick terrace building in Surry Hills. The site constraints were long and narrow - 23m x 5m - with adjacent tenancies on either side. The length and terrace-nature of the building meant the space was light poor towards the centre of the ground floor plan. To accommodate the cafe and retail program it was necessary to find a way to filter light to the ground floor.

The rear roller door access onto Albion Way allows the café to re-orient itself and becomes the ‘front’ of the tenancy providing an opportunity for the program to open up and visually borrow the lane.

As a result of both the brief and the site constraints/opportunities, it was necessary to challenge the perception of the existing narrow, vertical space. The design response was to reuse the pre-existing framework of the building and to translate it into another format through the removal of sections of floors, ceilings, and walls.

Light and programmatic connectivity drove the sectional approach. Vertical moments were set up through a series of diagonal, cylindrical interventions. The subtraction of these geometries created voids where the cuts not only revealed and traced the layers of the existing building, but also responded to the programmatic and spatial requirements of the brief in a volumetric manner.

The ground floor operates as the primary public zone and houses the cafe and retail spaces. Stacked vertically above this is the ‘factory’ or coffee roast works area, the office and the cupping laboratory, which forms another public zone for coffee tasting. Sight-lines through the cuts at both ground level and level 01, frame glimpses of overall volume and structure of the building and connect the cafe space with the production and activity happening above.

The material approach was one of restraint. The intention was to create a complimentary, yet contrasting palette that distinguished old and new. The approach was defined by the process of removal - stripping the layered finishes back to find the existing fabric of the building. What was then inserted/new had a singularity that was robust and monochromatic to contrast with the textures of the old. The (old) existing timber and brick palette that became revealed and traced through the geometric cuts was offset by a (new) palette of concrete block work, steel and tiles.

The fluorescent wall and ceiling lights tie the upper and lower levels together through recognition and repetition helping to define zones throughout the space. The horizontal suspended copper-tube strip lighting almost runs the length of the ground floor and defines and connects the retail, kitchen and bar areas.

The sustainability of the project is invested in the design strategy - the controlled process of extraction and the re-use and re-fit of an existing shell. Materials and hardware that were initially extracted from the project were salvaged and in many instances re-used. Existing sinks, door handles and timber were re-used throughout while structural components such as steel beams were turned into furniture.

Interior Services were considered where ventilation could be individually controlled. Operable roof lights were installed to release hot air from the coffee roasting machinery while cross ventilation between the Albion Street Entry and the Roller Door help to cool the ground floor. No air-conditioning was installed.