Fremantle Arts Centre Reception Area


The Fremantle Art Centre, City Of Fremantle (FAC) is located in the heritage listed Lunatic Asylum built in 1864. The departure of the Immigration Museum from the site freed up several spaces for the FAC and opened up opportunities to reimagine its visitor experience.

The original brief called for the design of a reception desk within a newly acquired room at the heart of the building. We saw opportunities to expand on this to review and explore the potentials for the space in the context of the whole institution. This small project mediates between the heritage fabric of the building, the port side history of the place and the contemporary art programme and classes, welcoming everyone to the centre.

Through a simple, elegant and cost effective set of moves we were able to reposition the way in which visitors first experience the FAC, touching the building fabric with only a few small fixings.

From the outset we sought to offer a contemporary interpretation of the surrounding portside environment.

As a tiny project on a tiny budget, we needed to embrace and elevate the way the simple palette of formply, plywood, steel and acrylic could work together as interior finishes.

The massive cylindrical form of the reception desk runs parallel to the length of the space, contrasting with the linearity of the existing envelope. The new display plinths have been fabricated from DD-grade ply and are set on moveable castors. The natural grain of the ply is reprinted on the plinths in a “larger than life” playful nod to the material. They have been developed with an interlocking system that allows the space to be refreshed and adapted according to the needs of the centre.

The subtle shifts in spatial use within a single room have been arranged through careful planning.  Through consultation with the client we extended the brief for a reception desk to include the relocation of the bookshop.  We felt that this simple move would assist in furnishing the space, making it feel inhabited and would also have the benefit of increasing book sales and revenue.

The desk, bookshelves and plinths have been fabricated from a robust palette of recyclable natural materials, again referencing the port city.  Most elements of the project require minimal fixing and are able to be removed without damage to the existing building fabric.

Contrasting this are highly coloured, glossy acrylic elements that act much like maritime signals and tie in with the recent re-branding of the FAC. These elements create a dynamic and changeable interior, acting as a backdrop to displays.

Great projects are only possible with great clients. We worked closely with the Director and Manager of the Centre to understand their needs and communicate our ideas.

The project was achieved within the $70,000 budget. Through careful selection of materials and simple fabrication methods we were able to exceed the client’s original desire for a desk and instead develop a scheme that addressed the entire space.