Warren and Mahoney Architects 77 WM Melbourne Studio

  • Pou Taketake / Cultural Leads
    Whare Timu, Jefa Greenaway
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Daryl Maguire, Whare Timu, Marianna Calvelo, Dominic Trewavas, Wirangi Parata, Justin Crook, Seona Kelly Pearce, Scott Compton, Tamara White, Sam Harris
  • Client
    Warren and Mahoney Melbourne

Warren and Mahoney’s newly renovated studio in Collins Street, Melbourne, is grounded within Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country of the Kulin Nation and set within the heart of the city counterpointing the neo-gothic building it is housed in. The studio is conceptualised on strong cultural narratives which echoes the history and memory of W+M’s Aotearoa heritage and placing that memory into a new home to be hosted and reimagined in the context of textures, colours, and mnemonics taken from cues of ancient Country.

For us to “cross borders” and unlock deep wisdom about place and expression, Warren and Mahoney’s cultural unit Te Matakīrea collaborated with Greenaway Architects, a Country-Oriented practice founded by Wailwan/Kamilaroi man Jefa Greenaway.

A multi-layered yarn or kōrero was established as a three-tier progression to promote diversity to truly reflect the multi-dimensional space we were designing for, and the cultures, landscapes and Country that inspired us: First tier was to connect - the idea of mana ki te mana (leader to leader) and invest the right people put in the right space given the right time will give the right outcomes; the second tier was to collaborate – the idea of deep listening where we lean into the design conversation with our ears first with our pencils placed in our back pockets; and thirdly was to create – the idea of passing the pencil and holding the pencil to enable a point of difference with our design partner who has “on the ground” knowledge. This was a chance to reimagine our story-telling, our story-sharing, and our story-symbiosis that amplifies the idea of cultural convergence in this unique corner of the world between Aotearoa and Australia.
At the centre of the workspace, the convergence of two indigenous cultures is amplified - a collaboration zone cloaked with interwoven charred timber planks which reference traditional fire burning practices and geometric patterns from both cultures.
The etching is the architects’ contemporary interpretation of whakarare, a Māori pattern that speaks of breaking barriers and plays on the idea of dualism. And the two vertical lines symbolise the connection between the two cultures, stretching between the ground plane (Country) and roof plane (in a ceremonial sense, Māori people use the lintel as the threshold between the sacred and ordinary). We note the importance of the mnemonic markers, columns painted with indigenous inspired patterns that resonate with First Nations’ tree scarring and importance of journey lines – they act as wayfinding markers that naturally draw you into the workplace.

To mark the opening of the new space, a mere pounamu (greenstone treasure) was gifted which carries the wairua (spirit) of Warren and Mahoney’s Ōtautahi (Christchurch) origins over to its new home in Narrm (Melbourne). We call this mere pounamu, Te Awa Whiria, meaning The Braided River, as an acknowledgement to both the Yarra River and Ōtakaro River (Avon River) that carry the mauri (flow of emotions) of Warren and Mahoney’s past, present and future.