Ian Smith and Ronan Moss from Cox Architecture talk to us about working in a space they created, mixed-use buildings and extended meeting rooms
Cox Architecture was involved in the master plan for the Kingston Foreshore from a very early stage. They knew its potential and wanted to be a part of it, so when the opportunity arose, they were the first commercial business to relocate here. Indeed, they have become the first commercial office on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin.
“For us, it was a bit of a no-brainer,” says Company Director Ian Smith.
“While we were in a nice space at Green Square—we wanted to show confidence in the precinct and be in a place that was purpose designed and created by us. Over the past decade and a half, we’ve had a hand in the Foreshore precinct, the new Aurora building and now our new studio fitout.
This is the first time he and Associate, Ronan Moss, have set up their offices in a space that they have designed. For Ian, it means that there may be a little reminder and an occasional assessment of his and his team’s work. “I think that you do, on a day-to-day basis, look at elements of it, and say to yourself ‘That is working well’. We’ve created a flexible space that is adaptable and ever changing. We are still refining some elements, but they are mainly around how we furnish and configure the space, and how the arrival experience and reception works” he says, referring to the bright and airy two storey entry that leads to the working space on the upper floor.
It seems the way this entry works will depend on the human interaction that both Ian and Ronan are counting on in this development, as they both believe that a precinct such as this should allow activity to flow seamlessly from one space to the next and enrich the whole.
For Ronan, the idea that the entire precinct can act as an extended meeting area is what he is most excited about. “One of the great things about a mixed use building like Aurora” he says, “is that you’re going to have commercial, retail, residential, and food and beverage businesses sharing the building. Anybody that participates in this building can get involved in any aspect of it.”
“One of the reasons we moved down here is that we believe the Foreshore will offer more of the amenity that we had at Green Square,” he continues. “If we want to hold a meeting, we can hold it in the coffee shop, or we can go to lunch next door, so it adds that level of amenity.”
Ian goes further in articulating the philosophy of mixed use. “We are Urbanists essentially—we call ourselves city builders—so we are all about being in an urban space, and interested in how all aspects connect,” he says. “When we were at Green Square, the cafés were often our meeting rooms. This will be the case at the Kingston Foreshore as the retail activity comes alive. We only had one meeting room then and we only have one now, and that’s because the way we like to relate to our clients is a little informal.”
Referring to the new café being built across the lane by the Lonsdale Street Roasters owners, he says “I’m just as likely to be in there having a meeting or working as I am to be here in our space, and I would hope the guys in the café come to see our lobby as an extension of their venue.” Both he and Ronan are motivated by the idea that café patrons can wander into their lobby and utilise their lounges, or the tables and chairs outside their door.
We want this to be something that is contributing to the life of the square, and the precinct in general. A big part of our business is designing commercial workspaces, and a principal that we advocate is how to connect large groups of people. In a skyscraper, where you have thousands of people in a single building with no connection between levels, it doesn’t foster opportunities for people to bump into each other and informally bounce ideas around,” says Ian. “If we can extrapolate that idea to a place like this, we don’t want to be sitting in isolation. We want to be engaged, and through that interface, the precinct can help prompt creativity or positive ideas about how we may respond to a design problem.”
For the area to evolve into a precinct that lends itself to this type of intimacy and shared use is reliant on the attitudes of the tenants that this type of urban development will attract, but Cox are setting the tone. “In a way, we are a landmark business,” says Ronan, pointing out that Cox have taken the initiative to move to the Foreshore early.
As the first commercial business to start operating on the water, they perhaps felt like they were located in the middle of a construction site earlier this year. But summer’s coming and some of the other businesses are starting to open. The precinct is really starting to come alive, and Cox’s ‘extended meeting area’ is taking shape.