Occasionally a design opportunity arises to weave an extraordinary existing fabric with contemporary technologies. The transformation of the 1927 First Church of Christ Scientist building in Darlinghurst into Yirranma Place was one of those occasions. The challenge for SJB was to foreground sustainable design principles as a central thread in this tapestry. Achieving this goal required combining expert knowledge of past practices and new technologies with an understanding of modern building code compliance to ensure the new workplace provides the best environment for its intended occupants and future uses.
Built in the 1920s in the interwar Beaux Arts style, this beautiful building was first utilised as a gathering place for the First Church of Christ Scientists. In the 1980s it was purchased by a private developer and transformed into his own private residence. Private ownership limited public viewing and access to the structures and grand interiors of the past. SJB sensitively adapted the building to offer flexible spaces to meet a range of functions – from a gallery and event space displaying indigenous artists work, to meeting rooms, breastfeeding rooms and incubator hubs that would accommodate and support ethical startups.
The site now accommodates everyone, with a focus on accessibility, public engagement, diversity and connecting to country. The latter was achieved by engagement with elders of the land such as Uncle Badger Bates who weaved dreamtime stories into the new narrative of the building. This is experienced throughout the building, including the front gates which were designed by Uncle Badger Bates.
Existing functions of the building are treated sensitively so they can be enjoyed by current and future generations, offering fascinating glimpses into the building’s past uses. Many presented challenges to modern ESD requirements and all are successfully resolved in the completed development.
Yirranma Place sets an example to the industry, demonstrating that sustainability is achievable while creating a positive impact on the environment and the community.
Photography by Anson Smart
Furniture: Jardan, Ownworld, CULT Design, Living Edge, Utopia Goods, Warwick, Anibou, Kvadrat, Designed By Them, Patricia, Gibson, De De Ce, Cosh Living, RC+D. Lighting: Ke-Zu, Euroluce, Viabizzuno, ESD. Finishes: Olde English TIles, Artedomus, Surface Gallery, Agape.