Feather & Lawry Design has been nominated for an Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards for its project The Big Little Office. This long narrow site is located on a traditional East Toowoomba street, lined with an avenue of mature camphor laurel trees.

It contains a post war ‘corner shop’ which had been previously converted to a hairdressing salon and then abandoned. The former neighbourhood significance of the building is hinted at by the presence of a red post box and angle parking signage inset into the footpath adjacent the original awning.

The brief was to retain the original shop and extend by an additional 25 square metres to create a home for a small, family-run financial practice. The maximum buildable width was a compact 5.8 metres wedged between the side boundary and an existing dwelling. The original street awning was retained, and the shop was opened to the footpath with new glazing so that the entry and dual-purpose lounge and meeting room could engage with passing pedestrians. The soft southern light transformed the dark and stale original space into a light and airy welcome for clients.

The new additions are located behind this space and have been designed to recede from the footpath to retain the scale of the original shop and preserve the character of the street. To offset the constrained footprint and limited opportunities for outlook at ground level, the new open workspace enjoys a lofty volume and high slot windows that look over the existing roof to the street tree canopy and wash southern light throughout the interior.

An office and second meeting room at the rear have been set back from the rear lane frontage to create a zone for carparking and landscaping that screen the footpath and soften the northern facade. Through careful arrangement of spaces and consideration of volume all internal areas enjoy views of lush flora and active streetscapes despite the limited opportunities for external openings in the building fabric.

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