Chameleon

For Fahey’s own loft, supergraphics already accentuated the existing building—with the word DAVEY’S, in letters nearly 3 feet high, spanning its entire redbrick, gabled facade. The two-story structure in North Melbourne had started out, in 1910, as a candy factory, but its banner headline came many decades later, when Davey’s Automotive Electrical moved in. Though the automotive business vacated this property about 10 years ago, the district—thick with car showrooms and recent loft renovations—has since acquired landmark status, ensuring the permanence of the Davey’s sign.

So, unable to change the building’s exterior, the architect intervened with an inner facade glimmering behind the original. Now from the street, you can glimpse up at a luminous, curving, candy-red wall set several feet behind the second-floor windows. Like the Pamela Anderson facade, this surface remains publicly present, tantalizingly translucent, yet barely penetrable visually.

Partially obscured and lusciously red, the form entices “like those great big lollies they once made in the sweets factory here,” says Fahey, head of Cassandra Complex, a six-person architectural firm. Taking evident delight in layering her work with a multiplicity of metaphors and free associations, she adds, “But it’s also personally nostalgic, like the great ruby (or fake ruby) ring in a case that I discovered in my auntie’s drawer.”To reach the 1,300-square-foot loft, you ascend a straight run of steps that glow with risers of orange acrylic behind perforated metal. At the top landing, a gold-colored door, inlaid with a grid of magenta acrylic circles, marks the new threshold, deftly slipped behind the old entryway. The architect angled the magenta inlays to match the slope of the stairs. As a result, the translucent circles channel sunlight from within the apartment, obliquely casting hot-pink ovals of light along the stairwell.

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