Aesop, The Rocks
Sydney, NSW, Australia
How do you fit a fully functioning retail outlet into a space a bare 4m wide, where no alteration to the existing building fabric is possible, and every surface must be left undisturbed? That was the challenge Facing Melbourne-based Architects March Studio when they sought to insert an Aesop boutique into Sydney’s Historic Rocks precinct. The site in question once served as the home of Sir Francis Greenway, Australia’s first government architect, with the current building dating from the mid-C19th. Since then it has been continuously occupied as a commercial space; playing host to a butcher, clothier and grocer among many others.
This main design driver for the project was therefore the challenging requirements created by the extensive heritage listing ascribed to the property; which precluded any changes to the existing structure whatsoever. Even the addition of minor hooks fixings to the walls or ceiling was completely forbidden, making it difficult to support the required product shelving and other required joinery in the small space available. March Studio overcame these restrictions with the idea of a Tensegrity sub-structure, a self-supporting scaffold composed of vertical and horizontal poles within a tensile rope grid, which could be used to fix shelving, joinery & services as required.
At first glance the roped ceiling appears chaotic, but closer examination yields an appreciation of the refined rhythmic simplicity of its construction. The wooden poles sit gently within the space, establishing a dialogue with the existing heritage timber elements, counterbalanced out by the raw aluminium joinery palette which provides a clean modern backdrop for a contemporary product. The rope binds not only the structure, but the whole of the design together; its warm colours reflect the time-worn heritage flooring and the language of its weave picks up on the filigree visual cues of The Rocks industrial heritage of wharf-side cranes and the nearby harbour bridge.