Photography by Lean Timms

A catalyst to create a laneway culture.

With a long and fascinating history of multiple uses, from Verity Hewitt’s Bookshop to a series of large format nightclubs beginning with the iconic 1970s Private Bin, this site within the Sydney Building has been transformed.

Across four of the narrow original blocks, the rear half of the building has been entirely rebuilt to address the lane and open ground floor connections from Northbourne Avenue through to Verity Lane, creating distinct front and rear spaces on both the ground and first floor.

Verity Lane has been reconceptualised with a pair of large, glazed garage doors and an outdoor seating deck in the loading zone creating a primary address and activity to the lane.

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Photography by Lean Timms

The rhythm of the rear façade, the new column grid, the positioning of the garage doors and the massing of the terrace balcony has all been carefully considered to articulate the original blocks.

Relating to the service character of the neighbouring blocks, the rear façade is red brick but with two different height formats. A slimline format has been introduced to express the use of the first floor for fine dining or a lounge bar, while the standard format reflects the robust nature of the ground floor food hall and circulation block.

Honesty in materials and construction was important with the desire to create robust, flexible, and unpretentious spaces. Connected within, a new honed concrete slab throughout ties the two halves of the building together and allows level access from the colonnade.

Whilst externally consistent in appearance, each separately developed part of the building was internally different and built to varying structural systems, which has been revealed here for the first time. A playful dialogue has been created with the building’s many layers of history, juxtaposing new finishes next to patinaed original materials.

Finely crafted stairs with expressed steel detailing, solid timber treads, and balustrades inspired by the iconic 1950s diving tower at the Civic Pool are set against raw brickwork to form theatrical transitions between spaces.

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Photography by Lean Timms
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Photography by Lean Timms

Historic detailing of the shopfronts to the colonnade has been reinstated, including marble hobs, with some adaption to allow accessible entries and operable openings. The window bench seating with feature restored vintage pendant lighting overlooking Northbourne Avenue activates the thoroughfare and provides a welcoming point of arrival to the city. Lighting has been critical to creating ambience and defining space.

Food hall tenancies are deliberately small with a consistent language to create an atmosphere of a bustling market and direct the focus primarily to the food. A new typology for Canberra that brings together a curated collection of vendors, the landlord kitchen fit-outs are flexible for vendors to change over time including for residencies, pop-up and pilot kitchens.

The main bar, stretching the length of the new extension, with dark stained timber panelling, a white granite bar top and bronzed mirror back bar, evokes the understated refinement of 1920s cocktail bars.

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Photography by Lean Timms
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Photography by Lean Timms
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Photography by Lean Timms
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Photography by Lean Timms