Arts Centre Melbourne

TypeCafeLocationSt Kilda Rd, MelbourneClientArts Centre MelbourneYearCurrentStatusIn ProgressArchitectCumulus StudioImagesCumulus Studio


Surrounded by the National Gallery of Victoria and the towering ACM spire currently sits Café Cento, housed in a drab plastic Gazebo. To address this aging eyesore, Arts Centre Melbourne conducted an architecture competition in 2018, challenging a selection of Victorian studios to design a “unique and memorable” new home for the Café.

The competition winning Cumulus Studio design, titled ‘The Protagonist’, takes cues from the activity that typically lies behind the Arts Centre walls, extending the interactive visitor experience into the city streets.

The adjustable exterior, inspired by theatre curtains, will be raised as the cafe opens in the morning then lowered at night to signify the end of service. Once lowered, the curtain can be used for marketing upcoming ACM events and activating the precinct at night with projected visuals.

A golden Kaynemaile mesh has been specified for the adjustable cafe exterior. A fire and UV resistant polycarbonate chainmail mesh, Kaynemaile was originally developed as chainmail for the Lord of the Rings movie costumes.

Despite it’s semi-temporary construction, the protagonist feels at home among the grand buildings of St Kilda Road, with key tonal references to the ACM spire and NGV roof.