CODA Studio has converted a sleepy warehouse in a forgotten pocket of East Perth into a contemporary co-working space that offers areas to think, create, gather and eat.
Working with an existing sawtooth-roof warehouse and double-storey office in East Perth, CODA Studio has drawn on the light industrial activity of the site and surrounding precinct to deliver Claisebrook Design Community, a cleverly planned co-working space created with a series of tongue-in-cheek design moves that play on the warehouse typology.
Captivated by the benefits of cluster economics in Europe and the US, owner Gene Barker instigated the reuse project with the aim of creating a social and collaborative workspace that would spark synergies between thinkers, creators and makers working alongside each other. In response, CODA has broken down the scale of the large site, crafting a series of workspaces that express spatial interactions and employ a rich palette of industrial, off-the-shelf materials.
The nondescript front facade of the tilt-up warehouse has been enlivened by a quirky, postmodern awning articulated in charcoal corrugated sheet metal. A cost-effective and transformative addition, the awning contributes to the streetscape and generates a playful, industrial identity for the co-working space. The spirited, graphic appearance suggests the warehouse’s change in use and hints at the new design elements of the interior.
At the front of the site, the former loading dock accommodates an intimate cafe called Dr Clause, providing amenity to staff and the broader community. Lined with plywood and punctuated with a trussed bulkhead and bursts of coloured tiling, the cafe entices visitors with an upbeat, yet mellow setting to enjoy a coffee and small bite. With full exposure to the street front, the cafe reclaims a number of council parking bays with a scaffold entry canopy, hanging planters and a vegetable patch, contributing to East Perth’s activation as an urban village.
The existing layout of the warehouse was thoughtfully reconfigured to intertwine each program across the floor plate. The tidy spaces – the offices and cafe – are positioned at the front of the site in the former office and loading dock area, while the messier “maker” zones are housed in the expansive rear warehouse. Red tactile safety flooring boldly defines an axis that punctuates the rear warehouse, creating a connected hub of activity, while graphic, yellow safety stripes encourage movement between these areas.
Within the office space, a colourful trussed bulkhead defines a cluster of communal hot-desks; a play on the warehouse vernacular. A wall of blackened joinery provides personal storage lockers for studio-goers, while the surrounding walls offer writeable surfaces for group collaboration. Four private offices and a boardroom occupy the perimeter and a full-height window offers views to the Victorian cottages across the street, framed by the angled soffit of the exterior awning. Triangulated vinyl flooring and yellow safety stripes to the office glazing draw on industrial imagery to give a punchy, graphic aesthetic to the office interior.
A band of red paint to the exposed concrete floor slab provides a continuation of the main axis, leading to the rear of the warehouse where a large, open workshop celebrates the culture of creating. Palette racking, shelves and workbenches offer a robust shared workshop able to take the knocks of use, where Barker asserts that “everything from dressmaking to woodworking is taking place.” An adjacent bike workshop provides facilities for the servicing and customization of bikes. Black cyclone fencing secures the space, allowing visibility to the mess and mechanics of the workshop and enabling creators to engage with the broader warehouse community. Opposite, five small-scale workshop pods act as a tiny precinct of private sheds for finer work and feature rubber flooring, built-in desks and open shelving. Their open-top, saw-tooth roofs are clad in polycarbonate sheeting to expose the timber framework beneath, and the interiors express stud wall framing to reveal the tectonics of the structure.
Over-scaled sliding doors opening to the cafe and workshop define a generous function area in which to gather and entertain. An angular, plywood structure frames a polycarbonate ceiling panel, anchoring the space while funnelling natural light into the interior. Its plywood form cuts a striking figure against the exposed warehouse ceiling, providing focus in the large, harsh loading dock, while its exposed speed-rail framing celebrates pipework and shackle connections. A continuation of CODA’s playful approach to the site, a dramatic red curtain and circular red carpet complete the space, adding warmth and richness to the exposed surfaces of the warehouse.
CODA Studio has thoughtfully retained, interpreted and celebrated much of the original fabric of the building. This project sits comfortably within its light-industrial context and retains a sense of accessibility to the local community, standing as a triumph in rejuvenation over demolition. CODA’s strategic approach to the site enhances the grit and grain of the warehouse typology, while the studio itself offers the appeal of engaging in a dynamic co-working culture that hums with activity, or retreating to one’s own creative bubble.