The names given to buildings and architecture offer insight into what is to be expected within. Some take on a literal connotation like London’s Shard, others pay homage to their designers or benefactor like the Eiffel Tower and others still are symbolic, satirical or inspirational.
Then there is the Martian Embassy.
This newly-completed design project by architectural firm LAVA stands in its own category. This strangely named and uniquely designed building will function as the embassy for The Sydney Story Factory, a Redfern-based not-for-profit creating writing centre for young people.
Taking its name from its form, the building’s interior design has been specifically created in order to encourage creativity. Described as a whale/rocket/time tunnel fusion, it is ‘the stuff great stories are made of’ according to LAVA Asia Pacific director Chris Bosse.
“The concept is to awaken creativity in kids, so the design acts as a trigger, firing up the engines of imagination,” says Bosse. “It’s an intergalactic journey – from the embassy, at the street entrance, to the shop full of red planet traveller essentials, to the classroom. By the time kids reach the writing classes they have forgotten they are in ‘school.’”
The body of the building is structured by 1,068 CNC-cut curvilinear plywood sections, somewhat reminiscent of the bone structure inside a whale. They are splashed with what the architects have labeled ‘Martian green’ paint. Benches, displays and interactive pieces and toys litter the space, with lights and sound effects further impacting the space’s strong atmosphere of play.
The Martian theme was concocted by Will O’Rourke and creative partners The Glue Society, who collaborated with the architectural firm on the overall design.
“We used technologies from the yacht and space industry to create the timber ribs,” says the designer. “Edged with Martian green, the curvy plywood flows seamlessly from reception desk to shop shelves to tables and benches. Walls, ceiling and floor, space and structure, become one element.”
The element of fun is not lost in this entire development, with Martian money and passports available from the red shop.
“We had a lot of fun creating the first diplomatic mission from inner space,” concludes Bosse.
Architecture can change a city’s identity. It can house world-class, life saving medical facilities, or it can damage the environment and affect our safety.
The Martian Embassy serves as a reminder that architecture can also be fun and innovative, holding a sense of whimsy and encouraging creativity.
At its basic root, architecture relies on a creative sensibility. While architecture is – and should be – taken very seriously, it is a breath of fresh air and a nice change of pace to see a space that celebrates creativity and fun.