The Bushells Tea Warehouse, a landmark heritage building in Sydney's historic Rocks precinct, was a tea-manufacturing warehouse from 1923-1975 but lay vacant until 1999 when work commenced on converting it into the headquarters of a leading information technology company. The goal was to design a contemporary wayfinding system that referenced the building's historic function as well as the technological nature of the client's business. The building is densely occupied. As a part of the adaptive reuse, some of the tea hoppers and former elevator enclosures were converted into meeting rooms, providing the opportunity for an interpretive signage solution.
On a preliminary site visit during the demolition phase, a rich resource of historical memorabilia was discovered, from early bills of sale to workers' graffiti and hand-painted notices. Our concept was to photographically document this unique graphic language that may have been otherwise lost and to reapply it as a contemporary overlay.
Working closely with interior designers, each floor was assigned a unique color palette and each room a unique name, metaphorically representing the various echelons of the tea business – workers' graffiti and equipment for generic meeting rooms, varieties of tea and abstract images of tea leaves for client meeting rooms, and ships that carried tea to Australia for graphics on the corporate level.
Contemporary typography, using a sans serif and a digital font, references the client's IT business and makes for easy user identification. Grids and lines act as a subtle element within the photography, also adding to the technological edge.
A linear stainless steel sign carrier flows from top to floor, expressing connectivity. The concept for the carrier was inspired by cable tray language used by the IT industry to carry data cables. It was a robust solution that fits with the industrial warehouse environment and also prevented the need for wall fixings on the historic building elements.
"This program leverages the historical roots of this heritage building. The unique vertical sign fastening system featuring vertical steel rods forms an integral part of the overall personality of the space while creating a flexible canvas backdrop for directional and informational signing. The hand-written illustrations on the steel walls add a sense of humor that is reinforced in some of the descriptive copy of the meeting room signs. The use of bright colors and textures on the signing grids are easy to read and understand while in keeping with the overall personality of the space."
"The designers trusted their instinct to uncover the historical significance of this site and inventively represent it in the environment, creating a true personality for the space. Beyond the history, they transition the information into a contemporary context that complements the experience. Great use of materials and integration into the space."
Penny Bowring (Principal in Charge), Ray Parslow, Andrea Nixon, Darren McMurtrie
Geyer Design (Interior Design)
Central Signs, Photobition Australia, Interspace, Simply Shop Fittings