GILBERT MOTORS AUTO-TRADES WORKSHOPS, TOTNESS, S.A.
We maintain that architecture can support and be informed by ideas external to it: philosophical positions, contemplation, experience. They may be grand universal themes, or commonplace experiences. In the long run, it actually doesn’t matter; whether they be grand or gauche, as they are hammered down into useable tropes they undergo the transformation into a building. Plato’s theory of everything becomes a brick, divine revelation is facilitated by a window.
¨Thinking in a similar way, there is no reason that a humble workshop building in a remote suburb should not aspire to an existence as high architecture. By rethinking the duck vs decorated shed approach, perhaps something marvellous could emerge.
¨Our entry is indeed a series of workshops servicing the auto industry. Two buildings housing four auto-trades tenancies had a program which responded to tenants’ demands, boundary constraints and sun-paths, vehicular and pedestrian circulation on the site and the commercial need to be seen and read (quickly) from a driver’s seat. These matters settled the buildings’ layouts and general forms.
¨Yet there was still an opportunity to craft the building envelope in such a way that the sculptural forms of the structures could speak of other interests and ideas – the extra-programmatic.
The subject for extra-programmatic content which we thought apposite was driving – in the Adelaide Hills, at night – certainly a commonplace experience, but one full of signification.
Dark hills form the skyline; twisted headlight beams and sudden bursts of white light, black roads with reflective stripes and guide posts with reflective coloured tabs are all here, or were. As approved, the buildings’ walls were all black, with red and white reflective metal strips. Meticulously fabricated white fascias evoke the dynamic experiences of night-driving lighting effects.
Commercial liveries of the tenants have, however been allowed, so while the original concept has been somewhat suppressed, a new liveliness has emerged, demonstrating the strength of the original scheme. (The enthusiasm of the owner for the architecture worked to limit the ambitions of his tenants as well)