Over five floors, the story of Australia is revealed in an epic atrium installation. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and with it, comes foresight. Once a project is completed, we take the lessons, the wins, and the challenges to continue improving our offering to our clients.

We proudly introduce ‘Better Built’, a mini-series by McCormack and our team that allows us to shed light on the finer design decisions, humbly discuss any challenges and share our collective learnings to improve our communities. In these entries, we will look back at the successes, the people and the things that made them happen.

Produced with Concept Black Architects

Few projects are like the atrium refurbishment in the Dexus-owned and managed building at 6-8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne.

A challenge to the untrained eye, this five-storey atrium and skylight upgrade posed all kinds of questions for Concept Black Architects. Set over five floors, the extensive work required inside the building and on the roof required a lot of meticulous planning and working.

While sticking to its aesthetic intentions, the project also needed to address several building maintenance concerns. Last but certainly not least, the building is home to Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) and the Department of Environment, Water and Planning and in normal times, these departments are busy. During construction, while Covid-19 raged, the building became the home of the State Control Centre, and the Australian Defence Force was placed in the building to keep stringent pandemic regulations in check. As a result, access for the building teams while the building operated 24 hours a day was tricky.

“But the concept was quick,” says Willem Huang, Concept Black’s Director and designer on the project, “we hand sketched everything and it progressed straight into development.” The final design celebrated the Australian landscape by creating a multi-levelled installation relatable to any Australian, Victorian or Melburnian.

So much of the project had to be undertaken outside of regular business hours. The cinematic unveiling of the plans meant we had to keep the project under wraps, installing protective films to surprise the tenants – with no sneak peeks until it was ready. At the time, this may have seemed like a mammoth task for the team, but as we look back on it, we realise it was worth every gasp.

The installation for the atrium at 8 Nicholson tells an Australian story over five floors. From arrival, it goes from the beach to the land, through woods and on to the city. Appropriately everything is local; all materials are sourced locally, largely recycled and treated nearby. In the central levels, a colossal mural dominates the view. Hand-painted by local street artists, it stretches nearly 20-metres across.

Almost five years in the making and executed during the pandemic’s peak (Aug’ 20- June 21) do not make for the most ideal conditions. Still, as Huang recalls, “the collaboration with McCormack was outstanding. They constantly returned to the concept, keeping the integrity of the design and ensuring it was maintained the whole time.”

The build included multiple and significant building maintenance and alteration projects, including:

  • The replacement of existing Perspex pyramid skylights with double-glazed, trafficable skylights, including new structural steel gutters and powder-coated flashing.
  • All existing Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) from the atrium were removed and replaced with new solid aluminium panels.
  • Removal of existing subfloors from no. 4 mezzanine floors and install new to suit new joinery
  • New sculptural joinery installation to no. 4 mezzanine floors with various themes – Uluru (L4), 12 Apostles (L3), Bush (L2) and Cityscape (L1).
  • Joinery to include faux vegetation and landscaping elements
  • Large custom painted mural on ground floor approx. 9m long and 6.5m high.
  • Hand-painted Lyre Bird mural on L2 fascia
  • New structural steel supports under the L1 mezzanine floor (above existing bathrooms) to increase the size of the mezzanine floor from 35m2 to 81m2
  • Scaffold the entire atrium to enable access to remove ACP panelling and install new (up to 26m high x 9m wide x 20m long)

With the pandemic all but over, the atrium now represents the peace and tranquillity of the intended concept. The welcoming vista is a fitting tribute to our country’s sometimes harsh but always beautiful landscape.  To view how the project turned out, please click here.

McCormack is incredibly fortunate to have worked with teams with extraordinary visions and the calibre to make it all a reality.

APS Australian Professional Shopfitters (Joinery)

Findlay (Electrical)

GCom (Cladding & Roofing)

ARA (Fire)

MAzscaff (Scaffolding)

Star Ceilings (Subfloors)

Element (Landscaping)