THE POSTMASTER - Macquarie Bank cafe
There’s new thinking around the office environment – a move away from the fluoro lit, intensely practical workplace composed of grey plastic furniture and industrial carpet. Within this more humanistic approach, plants and greenery are welcome, natural materials are creeping back and there are spaces where people can meet informally, chat and do business. When I designed a private cafe for Macquarie Group at Number 1 Martin Place - the brief was to incorporate these principles.
Located in a modern building accessed through Sydney’s historic General Post Office, I devised the concept of “The Postmaster” – pulling in the history of the grand old building. Going through online files, I came across a photo of the McCredie brothers: the builders who solved the problem of how to engineer the GPO over the Tank Stream. All four of them are clustered on one of the huge columns that would later form the beautiful arcades. The shot became the inspiration for the atmosphere. A kind of theatrical Victoriana: a mix of gravitas with a sense of humour…
The space itself was plain. In its favour were the high ceilings and spacious floor plan. The light was strange: it had a soupy quality, reflecting off the neighbouring buildings. The proportions of the square arches were good though and I decided to transform them into fake windows, similar to those in the nineteenth century factories. To do this we had to block off the actual windows, and put in artificial lights behind milky perspex “windows”. Custom wallpaper was made out of copies of old Australian stamps of kookaburras, emus and koalas – their colours soft & the engraving delicate.
One of the best comments on the final design came from a confused visitor who thought he was still in the historic GPO. I was happy with a certain cosiness, a club like feel and a vibrancy in the way people moved through the space. And the blown up photo of the McCredie Brothers, their watchful gaze greeting you upon entry, a slight suggestion of a smile from under their magnificent great beards.