2016 Melbourne Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design




Project Overview

Welcome to Thornbury is a large public space where rotating local food trucks are invited to gather around a permanent garden and bar. The existing site had a long term layering of car related uses which play out in the design, previously having been occupied as a car assembly factory, car showroom and a mechanics workshop. The concept for the venue takes precedence from similar venues around the world where food trucks are widely accepted, particularly in the United States, and includes references to gas stations, truck stops the Las Vegas strip.

Project Commissioner

Mr Burger


Project Creator

Therefore Studio


Alex Lake- Architect
Anouska Milstein - Interior Designer
Raphael Graham - Student Architect

Project Brief

The brief for the project was relatively flexible but ambitious in scale. The clients had existing connections in the food truck business and wanted wanted to create a dedicated place to support local food truck culture. They also wanted to create a public space for the local community and saw the project as a novel and landmark venue for the Inner North location and Melbourne's hospitality scene at large.
The brief referenced similar venues in the USA and consequently focused on particular elements of American design culture and car culture. The challenge was to draw inspiration from these references without creating an overly themed or crude interpretation.
The functional requirements for the large site were numerous, including complex services requirements as well as detailed vehicular and pedestrian traffic management. The venue needed to work for a particularly wide range of user groups and stakeholders, manage a social engagement agenda, function across day and night, and also through the variable Melbourne weather and seasons.
Finally, with an ambitious capacity to fill, the venue needed to be highly engaging, visually impressive and filled with landscape.

Project Innovation/Need

The venue aims to provide a new urban space for the local community, offering a large park-like atmosphere and allowing children and pets to participate. It also functions as a key supporting mechanism to the food truck community, offering access to crowds and facilities, but most of all offering a safe space to trade where they can avoid difficulty with trading permits infamously associated with Melbourne’s inner-city councils.
The space needed to feel inviting in both quiet times and during large weekend crowds. The design aims to break down the larger urban scale space into diverse and flexible pockets for inhabitation. It heavily utilises furniture of a civic nature, allowing changing numbers of people to occupy the space in different ways.
The materiality throughout references the history of the site, attempting to use associated finishes in innovative ways, with bathrooms which reference spray booths found on the site, steel structure which references car lifts and joinery that echoes the utilitarian items found in the mechanics workshop.

Design Challenge

The design attempts to continually respond to the many variables inherent in designing a public space. The user group is less defined and changes dramatically at times, creating the challenge of needing to mean something to everyone and cater for many diverse needs.
Another consequence of the civic ambition and urban scale of the project is the shear size of the site, at 1600m2 the challenge to create intimacy and serendipity becomes paramount to the success of the venue.
These design challenges are addressed through an adaptation of urban design principles which inform the planning of the project and circulation as well as the furniture and detailing.


This projects greatest sustainability move is inherit in the adaptive re-use and restoration of a run down site that would otherwise be left vacant and awaiting development.
Only robust materials have been added to the project, in line with the civic and hard wearing nature of the venue as well as to promote longevity and minimal waste.
Passive systems are used throughout including cross ventilation, and permanent shading with the exception of localised heaters for cold winter months.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. 
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