Cumulus Studio wins Arts Centre Melbourne design competition

Cumulus Studio will be designing the latest structure to grace the world famous Melbourne arts precinct on St Kilda Road, after winning a new architectural design competition hosted by Arts Centre Melbourne.

Surrounded by the monumental National Gallery of Victoria and the towering ACM spire currently sits Café Cento, housed in a drab plastic Gazebo. To address this aging eyesore, a collection of Victorian studios, were challenged to design a new “unique and memorable” home for the Café.

With Keith Westbrook heading up the design team, Cumulus Studio recognised the need to make a big artistic gesture in this historic location.

The winning design, titled ‘The Protagonist’, looks at what lies behind the monolithic walls of the Arts Centre and extends the experience into the city streets.

With an adjustable external screen inspired by theatre curtains, The Protagonist creates a significant civic presence that directly reflects the ACM brand.

In the morning, the curtains will be raised as the cafe opens, then at night, the curtains will be lowered to signify the end of service.

Once lowered, the curtain can be used for art projection, marketing of upcoming ACM events, and lighting to activate the precinct at night.

As the primary feature of the design, choosing the best material for the curtain façade was absolutely critical. After extensive research, the Cumulus Studio team settled on Kaynemaile, a fire and UV resistant polycarbonate chainmail mesh, originally developed as chainmail for the Lord of the Rings movie costumes.

The Protagonist’s contemporary, functional design makes a big statement, and although temporary, will be right at home among the grand buildings of St Kilda Road. 

Keith Westbrook and his team were thrilled to be awarded this opportunity, and can’t wait to see their work alongside some of Australia’s most important buildings.