2019 Sydney 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

Key Dates

6 March - Launch Event
7 May - Standard Deadline
2 July - Late Deadline
20 August - Judging
3 September - Rating Closes
5 September - Winners Announced
22 October - Awards Presentation

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Photo Credit : Peter Bennetts



Project Overview

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.

‘Dream Lab’ brings the space to life and merges past, present and future.

Project Commissioner

Sydney Story Factory

Project Creator

LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture)


The Glue Society
Lundy Building Group
Berents Project Management

Project Brief

The brief was to create a space for young people to feel free to imagine. To enrich the lives of marginalised young people through designing a unique space for creative writing and storytelling.

Building on the enormous success of the Martian Embassy in Redfern a new venue would reach more diverse background and older young adults in western Sydney where literacy levels are lower. Since launching in 2012, over 16,000 students have participated in free workshops.

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. What it needed was a design that would create a safe space, a place for imaginations to run wild.

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.

Project Innovation/Need

The architectural concept was to connect the four separate rooms in this heritage building with a continuous ribbon, to awaken imagination with non-linear design. 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. 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.

Crafted from the same material provides spatial continuity. We are taught to think in boxes and straight lines but the Lab breaks these rules with meandering lines that connect diverse spaces, and rather than limiting, stimulates thinking.

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.

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."

Design Challenge

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.

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.

It revitalises a derelict heritage building providing opportunities for western Sydney kids to improve their literacy skills.

The project adds to a local creative industries hub and Parramatta’s reinvigoration and cultural identity.


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.


This award celebrates innovative and creative building interiors with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes and aesthetic presentation. Consideration also given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.
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