Dream Lab

  • 2019

  • Architectural
    Interior Design

Designed By:

  • LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture)

Commissioned By:

Sydney Story Factory

Designed In:


The Dream Lab is the second visionary space for the Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people. It transformed a heritage 1830s cottage in Parramatta – a former lolly shop – into a dream-like, fluid, continuous space for writing workshops.

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  • Listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register the two-storey Georgian style building, a former lolly shop, is typical of the sandstone buildings that characterised the nineteenth century Parramatta townscape. The challenges were how to comply with council and heritage regulations and affordably modernise and merge the old and new parts of the building. And make it robust for teenagers and at the same time be inspirational for creative writing. And create flexible spaces for various configurations for different types of workshops, events and performances.

  • The architectural concept was to connect the four separate rooms in this heritage building with a continuous ribbon, to promote creative thinking with non-linear solutions. Like pouring a bucket of creativity into the spaces, it flows throughout the rooms and splashes out onto the street. This concept is realised with a series of free flowing timber elements that meander through the space and create seating, shelving, flooring and lighting. Crafted from the same material provides spatial continuity. The curvy plywood flows seamlessly so that walls, ceiling and floor - space, structure and ornament - become one element.

  • ‘Dream Lab’ brings an historic space to life and merges past, present and future. The Lab breaks the rules of boxes and straight lines with meandering lines that connect diverse spaces, and rather than constraining, they inspire thinking. It stimulates creativity through spatial differentiation. Digital workflow and the latest digital fabrication technologies generate an integrated and innovative design out of just one primary material. The Client: "Its a wonderful space for young people, safe and comforting, yet also encourages them to do things differently. The kids are blown away. Both Redfern and Parramatta spaces share a vocabulary, but are unique."

  • Futuristic lighting elements, a light cloud and an infinity chandelier cut out of a single sheet of perspex, add to the spatial drama and are interactive story prompts. A renewable timber product, a timber veneer and plywood, that is both recyclable and renewable, low maintenance, energy efficient LED lighting, and cross ventilation strategies minimise the use of active heating and cooling systems. The offsite prefabrication process reduced energy footprint, site time and costs. The computer process optimised profiles automatically, reducing waste. Locally sourced and manufactured, the project was completed within budget and on time, as well as overcoming all design challenges. A fluid geometry, a computer model, was sliced and ‘nested’ into buildable components, CNC cut, then put together like a giant puzzle in an imperfect existing envelope. Building a project on time and budget was challenging with pro-bono partners. Code compliance [fire, accessibility] was a considerable expense. Low-grade plywood was purchased at low cost and used for everything.