The ground floor of the Morley Johnson building is an echo chamber. Sounds reverberate off hard surfaces; a timber floor, exposed brick walls, a pressed metal ceiling from a century past. But not for long.
This empty space will soon be filled with all manner of ideas, opinions and creations, not to mention one of the city’s most fashion-forward refurbs. This will be the The Studio, Bendigo, a creative industries hub.
There are architect’s plans to perfect, building works to come, programs to prepare and, most importantly, creative people to attract.
Manager David Hughes is far from daunted by his growing to-do list and looming deadline.
“I’m really excited about the prospect of being able to create something from scratch, about starting with a blank canvas,” he says. “I’m excited about the opportunity to reactivate this space.”
When David chats to Bendigo Magazine, he is just one month into his new role to see the long-awaited hub come to fruition. Managed by Melbourne-based ACMI with State Government funding from Creative Victoria, the hub will provide co-working space for small creative businesses, plus a year-round program of workshops and events. There will be a communal kitchen, meeting room, and project spaces for photography, filming and podcasting. ACMI is well-placed to oversee the project, as the museum has experience with its own co-working space and incubator program, ACMI X.
“It’s been a really interesting process, because we want to achieve quite a lot, but we’ve got a limited space,” David says. “I’m excited with the plans because I feel like we’ve got what we wanted. The whole process has been an interesting one and a really fun one.”
Lucas Hodgens, of E+ Architecture, agrees. “It is fantastic that a client who is supporting creative industries has engaged a local architect to design the project, after all, we are a creative industry,” Lucas says.
“Using locals brings a certain degree of inherent knowledge, that only a local can know.” Lucas remembers visiting the building when it housed Toyworld, and the annual Lego exhibitions once shown upstairs during Easter festivals.
“I understand this building has had, and will have in the future, many tenants and uses. We ourselves have previously worked on this building. Therefore, it’s important not to permanently alter the building for each design.
“The space is amazing. We want to show this off, improve it where possible and manipulate it so it suits our client, but in a way that it can revert back to the original volume after we have gone.”
With that in mind, Lucas’ design will neatly slip into the space, leaving those original heritage features of bricks, timber and metal, exposed to shine.
“Our fit-out is more akin to an insertion or installation, with the aim we can leave the building in an original state if we are to ever end the program.”
Lucas says it’s another chance for E+ Architecture to contribute to Bendigo’s creative culture. “Being involved in the second gold rush in Bendigo – the rise of the arts – is very important to our office,” he says.
For David, that was also the motivation to move from his previous role with Be Bendigo, to this one. “It was an opportunity to be involved in the creative industries in Bendigo,” he says. Already designers, writers and photographers are expressing their interest in becoming tenants. David says fine artists, fashion designers and film makers are also welcome. “Anyone working in the creative field really,” he says.
“We’d like a broad cross-section of people because the thing we want to see is, what happens when we get those people together and give them the opportunity to work together on projects.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunities that will come from having people in the space together, to identifying opportunities for people in the creative industries, and helping those opportunities come to life.”
As guitarist for local cover band Iffy Pop, David knows first-hand the value of creative people collaborating.
“Maybe we’ll play at the launch? Maybe someone in here can design us a new logo?” he suggests. Watch this space.
Follow The Studio, Bendigo Facebook page for updates.