by Neometro

Converting a Potato Factory

Architecture - by Open Journal

From the Archive: Dow Street by Neometro, 2005

This project involved the recycling of a 1960s warehouse that was previously used for the storing and packing of potatoes for the nearby South Melbourne market.  While the existing building was unremarkable from the exterior, the interior had an impressive feature – a free span, suspended concrete floor supported on massive, metre high pre-stressed concrete beams.  These robust beams created a strong visual rhythm to the lower level interior.

The ‘self brief’ (this project was designed, developed and constructed by Neometro) was to transform the existing warehouse into contemporary residential apartments while respecting the industrial origins of the existing building.

Residential warehouse conversions often result in high, lofty sometimes hard to heat spaces.  This project is an investigation of an alternative approach to warehouse ‘style’, with a design emphasis on comfort and liveability.  For example, the original brick façade to Dow Street ahs been removed and replaced with a glazed wall.  This glazed wall is set back from the street to create space for generous north facing terraces.  A row of robust steel ‘portals’ marks the line of the original façade, and supports the upper level terraces and a ‘veil’ of stainless steel wires, supporting climbing deciduous vines.   The vines also screen views to and from  a recent development directly across the street. Inserted between the frames are the entry lobbies and stair towers – clad in Lexan polycarbonate sheet so at night they glow like lanterns in the street, clearly marking the entry points to the building.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

Additional levels were created by excavating to create a semi basment carpark, and inserting a new floor slab below the existing first floor slab.  The massive beams now form a strong feature in the lower level apartments.  The roof was also ‘pushed up’ with a series of sawtooth windows so that room was created for 2 – level apartments on the second floor.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

In terms of internal layouts, a more conventional response would have been to locate the living areas to the north, adjacent to the terraces.  However, as contemporary living often revolves around the kitchen, it was decided to locate the kitchen/dining area ‘ to take advantage of the best aspect so that the kitchen table is in the sunniest spot.  The living area is placed in the heart of the apartments for cosy night time living.

Lower level apartments

On the lower level the massive existing concrete beams, and the piers and concrete ceiling were maintained and emphasised.  Emphasis of these elements was achieved by making light weight insertions into the space i.e modular kitchen elements, free-standing joinery; cabinets that ‘float’ on the wall; sliding screens etc.

The industrial antecedents of the building are reflected in the materials – polished concrete floor; painted concrete ceiling; bagged and painted brick work walls; recycled timber posts and beams to support new sliding screens; use of industrial style fittings that are, in fact , quite decorative e.g old fashioned cast iron radiators; pendant high bay lights with fluted glass shades etc.

Lighting was also a critical design element, with uplights used to highlight the ‘coffered’ ceiling created by the beams.  Pendant lights between the beams have exposed ‘draped’ flex that means they can be easily relocated to suit the occupants’ requirements.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

Upper level apartments

The upper level apartments still have a ‘warehouse’ feel – with painted bagged walls and lofty voids with sawtooth windows above.  However the ‘ambience’ is slightly softer eg.  with timber floors, and plasterboard.


Number 3 and Number 4 were up for resale in 2015.


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