In Frame 135 we looked at how material suppliers are moving away from strictly show-and-sell retail strategies in their showrooms. In Thailand, for example, multi-brand building material retailer Boonthavorn created a material library-cum-co-working space to ‘assist young designers who cannot access material libraries in an office’, while the HQ of Dutch decorative interior materials specialists Baars & Bloemhoff includes a training facility for knowledge exchange among architects, makers, designers and students. These ‘working showrooms’ – places from which designers can work, upskill or connect to industry peers while surrounded by some of the tools of their trade – may help to strengthen customer loyalty, promote learning, build communities and highlight a brand’s expertise.

Sculptform – producers of feature wall, ceiling and façade systems – has joined the movement in Melbourne, with an event-oriented showroom designed by Woods Bagot. And, like that of Baars & Bloemhoff, the space centres on what the brand is calling its ‘Co-Lab’: a workshop and creativity incubator. ‘We’re a creative enterprise building a reputation and a product range beyond our timber origins,’ says Sculptform managing director Jeremy Napier. ‘It makes sense to be physically closer to industry groups, other manufacturers and architectural collaborators, many of whom have a presence in or close to the city.’ The auditorium and other social spaces were designed to host various events, such as those during Melbourne Design Week. ‘The amphitheatre arrangement will be where ideas cross-pollinate from within and beyond our studio.’

Naturally, the space highlights Sculptform’s expertise, with an undulating timber ceiling crafted by the brand’s manufacturing team. In this way, the products aren’t just in the space, they are the space – another aspect of what Napier describes as ‘putting the business on display’. Woods Bagot principal and design leader Bruno Mendes echoes the sentiment: ‘The products and the process are the heroes, and what visitors will experience is a physical connection to Sculptform’s work – something that can’t be found online.’

Read about more retail spaces here.