Sable Drop Café

Jackson Clements Burrows Architects

The redevelopment of the lower ground floor of Building H at Monash University’s Caulfield Campus in Melbourne incorporated multiple interconnecting spaces, with Sable Drop Café at the heart. Responding to the design brief prepared by Monash University Buildings and Property, visual and pedestrian connectivity linking internal and external spaces were the key design drivers.

The previously dark and hidden café has been completely transformed by opening up and pushing out the building envelope. Soaring 3.5-metre-high ceilings, full-height glazing and an open landscaped terrace allow an abundance of natural light and ventilation into the space. A green-coloured band encompasses the entry threshold and activates the facade, every material carefully and harmoniously selected to reflect the adjacent green landscape, complemented by a neutral and light palette beyond.

The university envisaged the space operating as a café during student hours with the ability to host faculty functions after hours. Furniture is fixed around the perimeter, and bespoke banquettes in the centre can be wheeled away and tables and chairs stacked to allow for a cocktail function. The connective corridor to Building H houses compact screened two-person pods perfect for a private coffee or place to study. The café is often used for faculty meetings and student study.

The design, responding to guidance from the Monash University Design Review Panel and Buildings and Property, addresses the need for wellness in universities. The space boasts excellent acoustics (sensitive to the presence of a lecture theatre adjacent), an abundance of natural ventilation through the full-height operable sliding windows, and natural light – often not requiring artificial lighting at all.

Photography: Peter Clarke.