A.F.T.R.S

The Australian Film Television and Radio school foyer

It was a great brief. To turn the foyer/cafe area in AFTRS, the Australian Film Television and Radio School, into a creative space – a magnet for former students, current students and the wider film industry. The starting point was a big space with unsympathetic furnishings: unwieldy white plastic tables, corporate grey fabric covered walls, pin boards and candy coloured stripes. People didn’t spend time there- it was something they crossed through.

Early days:  the mood was accountancy firm crossed with a day care centre

Early days: the mood was part accountancy firm part day care centre.

I spent a lot of time there observing and understanding how the foyer was used: it’s a complex space. There are lectures, evening classes, tours, meetings, events. People having coffee, lunch, using the library. Discussing scripts, visual effects etc. The architecture was vast yet formless. I started to carve out little zones: the central lounge zone, the booth area, the waiting area, the WeWork inspired communal desks, the club like lounges at the windows. So that people could have a clear choice of where to go, choose a seating option best suited to their reason for being there.

Looking out to the main entrance to the Foyer.

Looking out past reception, to the lawn in front of the Foyer.

There’s an inherent generosity in the concept of this space: it invites people to linger. Next up was sourcing comfortable seating: leather lounges with cushions and armchairs you just want to sink into.

Two vintage black leather chairs from Lafer in Brazil set the tone.

Two vintage black leather chairs from Lafer in Brazil set the tone.

Just off the foyer is the world of backstage: studios, the loading dock, students carrying unlikely assortments of props, the construction and scenic art workshops. I like creating spaces that are calm yet with have vitality & intrigue. Bringing elements of backstage out into the foyer made for a more exciting space.

an evocative studio backdrop welcomes visitors into the space

A painted backdrop that has been used outside the windows of many a student set .


The colour scheme...   AFTRS letters repainted a rusty red, a vintage rocket from a carnival ride holds a fern.

The colour scheme… Mexican barstools, a studio light, a vintage rocket from a carnival ride.

A great find from the scenic workshop was a collection of circus posters: their wild energy and strong colours seemed to suit the current creative climate of film making and its new avenues of YouTube and online. I experimented putting up some old film posters but it just didn’t feel right. This is a space about the present and the future.

Booth seating made to go along the cafe walls - like mini meeting rooms.

The builders custom made booth seating to go along the cafe walls – like mini meeting rooms.

Another circus poster,  communal tables for hot desk working.

Another circus poster, the communal tables to suit hot desk working.

Texture was another key component in the redesign. Corporate interiors are all about the smooth; surfaces that have been untouched by the human hand. When the builders covered the walls with hessian the space suddenly felt warmer, earthier. The existing old brick wall, timber and raw concrete surfaces are more noticeable: the light falling on them seems golden now.

The hessian covered walls.... the "waiting room" zone

The hessian covered walls…. the “waiting room” zone

Picasso said that “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense” . While the underlying structure of the foyer had to be functional – I wanted to loosen the space up with strange and random objects. A large carved camel, a Foosball table, the piano from the propstore, a blade from an old windmill, industrial green shelving from Egypt. Anything possible within the realm of creativity.

Examples of students' billboards from the scenic painting workshop.

Examples of students’ billboards from the scenic painting workshop

The space is different now. I’ve seen students jammed into booths having long, intense conversations. The people from the ballet school have been coming over for meetings. But possibly my favourite thing was hearing that the students held a spontaneous sing along around the piano one evening…

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