On the landing page of Das Studio‘s website are the words ‘Make Better’. It’s a studio motto and catchall for everything they touch; be it the relationships they foster, the processes they develop or the outcomes they achieve. For Das Studio, to make better is to be better - it’s in everything they do.
A studio and an early learning centre might not have much in common, but a deeper look reveals more similarities than first thought. There are some external values at play of course, things like community and larger ideals of working towards a better society, but it’s in the tangible and operational that the connection is made. Both projects feature moveable furniture and alcoves designed for discussion and collaboration, there are designated pockets for productivity or teamwork, and both make a considered connection to their respective environments through well designed, adaptable spaces.
Based in Adelaide, Das Studio’s HQ sits on a well-established inner-city street surrounded by classic Australian 19th and turn of the century homes. Their ornate and idiosyncratic verandas, balconies and picket fences are the antithesis of the 70s Besser Brick warehouse Das Studio calls home, but as Sara Horstmann, Creative Director of Das Studio puts it, “It was the first time we had the opportunity to design something for us and a space that our clients could come and really see what we were about. It was an opportunity to have a little bit of fun and express our personalities.”
Das Studio has experienced tremendous growth over the past 5 years, growing from 4 to 23 staff members and moving into what is now their fourth office. It was only right they made it a little more permanent. From the street, candy stripe awnings hint at the world inside. The low-slung warehouse, resplendent in all white painted brick, has a subtle mid-century, Californian feel, it’s crisp edges giving way to endless blue skies.
Inside, the space is anchored by partitions and walls of plywood that border deep-set alcoves sheltering blush-pink cabinets; plenty of storage for files and folios and material libraries. Rooms have been arranged by colour and application. Bold colours, textiles and bright lighting might define a collaborative pocket intended for healthy debate and creativity, while meeting rooms are offered as considerate low-lit zones to facilitate candid conversations or favourable Zoom screens. The pale timber acts as a base to allow the colours, artworks, furniture and objects to shine. Encouraged by laptops, non-hierarchical workstations and an emphasis on flexibility, the studio is the living, breathing embodiment of ‘make better’.
Case in point, the large galley kitchen. Dressed head to toe in Laminex Green Slate, the high walled partition provides staff a chance to relax. At the end of the benchtop, a sky-blue La Marzocco coffee machine stands tall, in both an ode to the studio’s colour palette and the staff’s obvious caffeine addiction. It contrasts the Laminex Green Slate in an ‘oh-so-right’ clash of colour that would make Gio Ponti proud.
“Everyone always asks us about the colour and says how beautiful it is,” says Horstmann of the kitchen. “It’s been a really useful tool for our clients, to show how Laminex is not just what your parents had, that it can be cool and something more premium.”
Across town, at the foot of the Morialta Conservation Park, Stradbroke Primary School’s new addition functions in a very similar fashion. Here, colours have been chosen to promote collaboration and resourcefulness and for the young students of the Early Learning Hub, this well-lit space not only offers an amazing connection to nature but also a carefully considered environment intended to promote investigation, exploration, creativity and interaction, just like a studio.
Abundant bushland abutting the school belies the fact we’re only 15kms from Adelaide and in a nod to the surrounds, Laminex Spinifex has been used plentifully.
“It was one of the first things we went to,” says Rachel Pargeter, Associate and Senior Interior Designer. “Laminex’s durability makes it the perfect product for this sort of environment and when you’ve got all these eucalypts for inspiration, we knew we had to use that pale green colour. It allowed us to push the idea of colour blocking quite far.”
The building itself is all new, but through the reuse of an existing slab, considerable savings were made, enabling the Year 1 teaching spaces to be upgraded and connected by a central Nature Playground. “We were thinking of this site in terms of sustainability, but we were also thinking about following in the footsteps of what came before,” says Pargeter.
Guided by its wonderful location, Das Studio has designed a building to sit in its surrounds while simultaneously letting its distinct personality be expressed. Externally, the poppy highlights spark interest and engagement - this is a school after all - as the softer interiors beckon as a space for learning and calm.
Like any studio, Das Studio solve problems, but what they find in every project and make room for in every solution is joy. To make better is to make a difference, whether in the early years of child’s life or in the space they call their own. A visit through their archives reveals a wide and varied portfolio, but there is a through-line; as these two recent projects demonstrate, despite all outward appearances, we’re all connected.
Be inspired by more of Das Studio’s work by visiting their website.
Photography Das Studio HQ: Josh Geelen | Shannon Wark Stradbroke School: David Sievers