The notion of cutting up an entire beef carcass in an office might seem bizarre to some, but when your business is butchery it makes sense to have a space where you can showcase your skills. That’s why Sydney firm Those Architects included a marble butcher’s slab at the new headquarters of local meat distributor Vic’s Meat, which aims to bring a sense of the traditional Australian farmstead to the big city.
Vic’s Meat specialises in providing premium meat to the restaurant and food service industry, and is known across Australia for its television show and smartphone app, Ask the Butcher. Headed by father-and-son team Victor and Anthony Puharich (pictured opposite), the company combines a passion for heritage farming techniques and artisanal butchery with state-of-the-art machinery used to cut, pack and distribute high-quality produce. It wanted its offices to reflect these values, and asked Those Architects to deliver a proposal that incorporates the latest technology alongside references to Australia’s agricultural vernacular.
“Conceptually, it was crucial that the architecture of the space captured the essence of the business and reinforced its values,” says Simon Addinall, co-director of Those Architects, which collaborated with branding and spatial design agency End of Work on the design for the office fit out. “This is achieved primarily through the floor plan and built forms, which reference traditional Australian farm outhouse buildings, and the material selection and fine-grain detailing of the entire space, from the entry stair right down to the tapware in the bathrooms.”
Throughout the office space, a consistent palette of authentic materials, complemented by traditional forms and construction techniques, helps to reinforce a narrative centred around the brand’s core values of integrity, tradition, quality and knowledge. The concept was inspired by the notion of an embassy, where one country’s culture is transplanted into the context of another. In the case of this “embassy of meat”, the look and feel of a typical farm is recreated in the city.
“We worked primarily with traditional Australian materials, including timber, leather, concrete and brass, to imbue the project with this sense of tradition and make a clear connection with rural Australia, which is the lifeblood of the business,” Addinall explains. “We elevated the method of construction through fine detailing in order to balance the more contemporary aspects of the operation.”
The headquarters is located close to Sydney Airport in the suburb of Mascot, and occupies a 1990s warehouse that features steel portal frames and tilt-up concrete panels typical of its industrial context. Vic’s Meat had operated out of the building since its completion but had gradually outgrown its original premises. The opportunity to purchase an adjacent block delivered the additional floor space required for the company’s expansion – including the larger offices and an upgraded processing facility.
“We were fortunate that the newly acquired space provided an opportunity to insert a column-free 600sq m mezzanine level which was perfect for the new workspace,” recalls Addinall, adding that the large, uninterrupted plan facilitated the centralisation of previously separated departments and enables more efficient communication between the staff.
The space is divided diagonally into two halves by a freestanding timber-clad volume containing a row of executive offices. The group of individual yet connected rooms is intended to reference the breezeways linking outbuildings on typical Australian farms. Each office features glazed sliding doors on either side that allow staff to see and walk through the spaces, while awnings that open on to a central meeting space can be opened to enhance the connection with the activities occurring outside.
On one side of the central spine is the main workspace, where the marketing, administration and production teams are seated around large workstations. The opposite side is dedicated to more social and entertaining spaces, including a kitchen that is kitted out with top-of-the-range equipment. The centrepiece is a giant marble bench, which can be used for butchery or cooking demonstrations. “The idea is to use the space to host leading chefs and restaurateurs, and the client also hosts a television show here, so it is put to good use,” claims Addinall.
Next to the kitchen, the architects removed a 40sq m section of the building’s roof to create a narrow light-filled courtyard. Daylight that floods into this void reaches the office space through full-height windows, while a green wall lining the space introduces a natural element. Inevitably, the courtyard also incorporates barbecuing facilities for outdoor cooking.
According to Addinall, the introduction of daylight to the interior and an enhanced connection with the outdoors has significantly improved the working environment and provoked positive feedback from the employees. “It’s a simple thing, but giving people access to daylight and natural ventilation has been one of the aspects most appreciated by the staff,” he suggests. “Even if the majority of them notice nothing else, this means we’ve done our job.”
Around the perimeter of the office floor, a boardroom, library and meeting room called The Crypt provide alternative spaces for communal working or relaxation. The brand-led narrative continues throughout these spaces, in details such as the images of animal skulls screen-printed onto the boardroom table, or the open shelves lining The Crypt, which will gradually be stocked with a collection of skeletons, animal-inspired artworks and tools of the butchering trade.
Further details that add to the story of the interior scheme and complement the honest, robust materials include furniture and artworks that have been developed in collaboration with local manufacturers and artisans. Custom-made three-legged wooden stools evoke those that are traditionally found on dairy farms, while a life-sized bull sculpture by artist Harriet Goodall stands proudly at the top of the stairs.
“The project required a strong narrative quality in order to deliver on the client’s brief,” Addinall concludes. “Our approach was to ensure that the language of every component reinforced the notional idea of the ‘meat embassy’.” From materials that reflect the firm’s Australian roots and gastronomic credentials to artworks representing the animals that provide Vic’s Meat with its premium produce, each element of the interior contributes to the story: a paean to meat.
Those Architects’ design puts the Australian farm at the heart of its Sydney HQ for Vic’s Meat