If anyone knows me at all they know that I am a sucker for timber box-like buildings with Felipe Assadi and Francisca Pulido’s Fruit Warehouse being one of my favourite buildings of all time. So when Emilio Fuscaldo and Imogen Pullar of Nest Architects invited me to take a look at their project for KereKere I didn’t need a second invitation.

KereKere is a coffee vendor based at the University of Melbourne that let’s customers decide how its profits are distributed whilst providing employment for young people facing barriers in their quest for work. Kerekere, which takes its name from the Fijian custom of when someone asks something of yours you must give it to them, is the brainchild of James Murphy, a client who Nest Architects have worked with previously.

Murphy, although armed with a vision didn’t exactly know what he wanted but definitely had some ideas as to where he wanted the business to go and how it should evolve. At this stage all that Murphy’s venture consisted of were a couple of coffee carts and initially Fuscaldo thought that he go for some kind of structure. But all the client wanted at this stage was a few items that would create a brand: some chairs and tables; a screen to protect the coffee carts; and a trolley to put all the furniture on.

Not ones to disagree with the wishes of their client, they designed the items wanted including the little box where his playing cards get put into by customers to distribute the profits. Both say the client was really happy with outcome, which led them working together for the next year and a half on a number of different projects including going to other universities with the same model. It was at this stage that idea of a more permanent kiosk came up and Nest Architects are not exactly sure how Murphy managed to swing the location at Engineering Lane in the University of Melbourne but by the sounds of it they are pretty happy that he did so.

At the beginning, after overcoming a few building issues, Fuscaldo said they initially came up with something quite flamboyant. The plan was initially to use less timber, as they wanted to move away from its use, which if one can say such a thing at this early stage of their career, is something of a trademark. They initially wanted to use galvanised steel and painted colour panels to keep costs down but the more they progressed with the project the more their client liked the timber and wanted to the kiosk to be a “timber thing”.

They describe it as this “nice box” and I for one am pretty happy that it did. In fact it’s more than just a “nice box”, it’s a “nice timber box” simply treated with the intention that it will grey off over time giving it an ever-evolving patina. As Fuscaldo notes, “If you touch the timber, you have to keep touching the timber, so you might as well leave it and let it bleed and eventually it will be quite beautiful as one side will be really grey and the others less so. It will change over time and it will be interesting.” In fact the choice of timber is somewhat of a masterstroke because at the moment it blends in well with the bricks of Engineering Building in front of which it sits and gives the impression of being part of the existing building.

Whilst I may describe it as a “nice timber box” it’s probably doing it a little disservice as the little armatures out the front, the barn door on one side and an awning on the other means that each exposed side has something different going on. They are simple intrusions so as to not ruin the overall simplicity of the kiosk and they compliment it well.

One thing that was key to the client was that people still came to this new fixed location and could still see a relationship to the old set-up of two mobile coffee carts which worked extremely well as a business model. Both Emilio and Imogen clearly stated that in the process of making something permanent they didn’t want to kill off the feeling that people had of discovering it when it was located on the opposite side of the campus and feel that they had changed. They said, “That’s the last thing you want is to build something up and then have people say you changed so they don’t go there anymore. It’s not cool anymore.”

Rest assured with Nest Architect’s assured handling of their client’s wishes, it’s still cool.

Photos by Jesse Marlow

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