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Toby Richardson

Artem Promovemus Una | We Advance the Art Together

RMIT University Master of Architecture Graduate Project 2021

Supervisor: Michael Spooner

This project looks to the franchise model of Domino’s Pizza and applies it to the Australian Institute of Architects. It was inspired by the founder of Domino’s who brought together the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright artefacts in the Prairie-style franchise headquarters.

A franchise is an opportunity to hold a single identity across multiple sites. The decentralisation of the AIA allows for its charter to be acknowledged by smaller collectives of architects. Within each enclave is held an occasion for debate and conjecture.

The project stands across three sites once home to a Domino’s franchise. Each is an architectural centre specific to the surrounding local on the high street, in an inner-suburb, and in the city. The three sites together reflect the growth of the franchise and attend to the different opportunities to advocate on behalf of the discipline and for those who can invest in it.

PROLOGUE

Let me show you a personal framed poster situated in my room labelled Frank Lloyd Wright – preserving an architectural heritage. This inspired the entire project.

This poster was in fact in cooperation with the Domino’s Centre for Architecture and Design.

Yes, the Domino’s Pizza Collection, it’s a thing!

The founder of Domino’s Pizza, Tom Monaghan, beyond a Pizza Empire, had a passion for architecture and greatly admired Mr Wright and built the largest collection of Wright artefacts in the world. Domino’s Farms is a building that was architecturally designed in the Prairie School style, a style famously associated with Frank Lloyd Wright, by award-winning architect Gunnar Birkerts …a Pizza Empire who strived for the Wright Stuff

The project positions Domino’s Pizza as a model for the decentralization of the Australian Institute of Architects.

The implication of Domino’s meant the project plays the fine line between the site condition and how a franchise commonly has an ecology and language around it. A franchise is an opportunity to hold a single identity across multiple sites. However each example of the franchise operates independent of the whole as a result of the many contextual parameters across sites. In some ways the architecture profession reflected this, in the architecture firms that have an active interface to the public realm, either purposefully through the re-design of the building (Kerstin Thompson, John Wardle), or in the opportune inhabitation of a prior storefront (Buro, Austin Maynard, Architecture Archtecture).

Other models were investigated that reflected the framework of a franchise without necessarily being one. Cosmetic brand AESOP realises profound specificity in every store but has a ‘taxonomy of design’ relative to specific features or material that are shared across them all – while the product it sells is both limited and generic, like pizza with 3 toppings. A decentralised model within a complex organisation was reflected in the 2032 Queensland Olympic bid as every aspect of the event are shared across state not city. Childcare centres were a legislated service but were housed in an array of existing building typologies (houses, warehouses, corner shops), or existed within new builds that had the familiarity of surrounding typologies. Examples of architects delivering a network of a specific typology across multiple sites but with a concern for each buildings architectural character and its reflection of the network included Kerstin Thompson’s police stations and Edmond and Corrigan’s firestations. The provision of amenity (admittedly a bleak one) was reflected in the multiple PSO pods at train stations across Melbourne, satirically consolidated through new signage as Architecture Centres.

The Project

The project stands across three sites once home to a Domino’s franchise. Each site is given over to an architectural centre that reflects the surrounding character on the high street, in an inner-suburb, and in the city. The decentralisation of the AIA allows for its lease to be acknowledged by smaller collectives of architects. Within each enclave is held an occasion for debate and conjecture. 

SITE 1: 605 Sydney Road Brunswick East.

What happens if the building itself is a shopfront for the presentation for architecture. The tenacity of the first franchise is held in the concern for the object: an architecture gallery situated in the bigger urban fabric of Brunswick. The concept of a shopfront of architecture on a high street is an instrumental diagram for advocacy and the profession made-to-be-seen. It offers an opportunity to gather, an ‘opening of doors’ to the collective, and a performative and playful exhibit to invite people in to ‘takeaway’.

Holding a passive relationship to what is displayed and a more obvious and tangible presence of the AIA. Exploring the thought that archi­tecture is a service associated with the exploration of the city. A totally different condition when closed the form, as a result is amplified within its congested context and points to more of something that is centred around a pure iconography.

But opened its a consideration of space not only for that object but a small forum of industry participants, a night event that shows the idea being more definitive and activity happening consequently. Day or night. Opened or closed.

It’s a plugin interface along Sydney road acting with a concern and design sensitivity that it doesn’t look to replace rather co-exist with the memory of the existing,

With the original signage ‘STAWELL’ and window façade gets pushed back 2.5m to the existing apartment balcony above. This axonometric section shows how the architecture sits where the front condition is where the design is held whilst the back supports the performative frontage of the building in a functional sense, defined by a generic kitchenette and storage. There is a point within the materiality and design that considers the possibility for that front condition to adapt and change department on the enclave of architects.

The accessibility is made because of its front and street, which holds true back to DOMINOS as itself and its accessibility as to only ever exists as a street condition. The architecture is the difference. The architecture works hard as a series of conditions in the first few metres.

SITE 2: 142 Chapel St, St Kilda.

There was a point in my project that attempted to view the franchise model in the territory already occupied by architects. The Robin Boyd designed Neptune Fishbowl ‘Fish n Chip’ shop, at first glace hyper specific and expressive, was supposed to be expanded as a franchise, the formal device of the blue sphere expanded to 10 or more sites. There was also the contribution of other architectural advocates, in particular the Boyd Foundation headquartered in the Robin Boyd designed Walsh Street House. Boyd was a constant advocate for his profession, as an architect, a public figure, writer and commentator, and the first director of the RVIA Small homes Service that sought to popularise the modern home and make it available to a broad public.

A question of what this project could reveal had been made early with the Walsh Street House imposed across the site with surprising ease. How much architecture was needed for the franchise to be legible?

The project took the stance that Site 2 would be the result of learning from the first franchise site in Brunswick East, with a consideration of how the franchise is situated within the community and beyond the basis of broad architectural advocacy. The proposal become a space shared with the community and the contextual adjacencies, including a school. This space reflect the eat-in Dominos, what was present before. People are not only invited in, but invited and welcome to stay.  

The Centre façade reflects similar characteristics of the Brunswick East franchise. It attempts to architecturally situate itself across the existing architectural features requiring the proposal to do a lot in the first few metres. When you cut the existing façade away the architecture sits delicately behind and a series of small interfaces and spaces between the street and the new centre are revealed with no definitive entrance.

The centre is turned not only to the street, but holds a central garden that is a platform for events and the focal point for the galleries that open into it, and an area for contemplation from the office spaces above. The two galleries present different opportunities to frame the consideration of their contents. One is farmed towards the street, while the other extends from the current art lane.

The Centre modestly frames a forum for community engagement.

SITE 3: 272 Lonsdale St. Melbourne CBD

The procurement of a tower in the CBD illustrates the success of the franchise, and was an attempt to evaluate a more robust architectural outcome. It required the franchise to have a bigger picture than prior sites. This harks back to DOMINOS as certain franchises are given more money to begin with and each one operates independent, and performance is dependent on the economy around it. The tower, the next step in the evolution and presence of the two prior sites combined, is a a public interface the expounds its city location.

The project considered an urban billboard as a distinct condition for the presentation of architecture. This was imitated in the oblique position of the building against the direction of the city grid, and the distended façade that hovers above the street. A thinness in the application of architecture, first seen in the unfolding façade of Site 1 and emulated in the brick and mortar façade of Site 2, secures a distinctive narrow layer between window and façade that avails the profession to the public and immediate acknowledgement.

The streetscape and ground condition is expanded with a small urban courtyard. The existing entry stair informs an intimate interior conditions, enabling passage to the neighbouring Chinese restaurant and to the emerging architects offices that neighbour it.

From the laneway a glazed opening in the bluestone cobbles enables views into the gallery that sits below. The laneway is given a new life as public thoroughfare and informal gallery forum, a far cry from its prior existence as the ugly side of back house dominos or that 5am exit from Baroque nightclub after a big night out.

Alongside the existing CBD towers of other professions and industries, the proposal is symbolic of the architecture community validating the franchise. There’s some truth to the idea that good buildings are billboards for architecture. Most people don’t engage architects but everyone engages architecture. This building is evidence of what we can do as architects.

Conclusion

The project was held to a single ambition, positioning a community of practitioners around a very particular building as a kind of instrument and evidence of the profession. While the project recognised the limit of a franchise model , it was an an attempt to progress the debate on professional efficacy.

Each site has a specific architectural concern that speaks to the building’s generosity in service of architecture, by architecture. The three together examine the growth of the franchise but attend to the different opportunities to advocate differently on behalf of the discipline. Interestingly the procurement framework emerged quickly, but it was during the testing of architectural strategies, an an examination of the the legibility of the architecture across 3 very different scales, which I found difficult.

Early on in the process, I first attempted to have the same complete language and outcome as the first project. I then found success when I pursued each project through an independent response to site and then ascertain how the strategy that’s run across them works in a particular way. It was more beneficial to use the framework to assess the outcome.

In the end, my project does not try and solve the problem of a franchise as an exemplar for the architectural profession. It was an attempt to evidence how the problem could elevate the forum of design and thus elevate the profile of architects.

There was some truth in giving smaller collectives of architects an opportunity to have a slice of the AIA with the occasion for debate and speculation. While everyone seemingly had an opinion of the AIA, my own view was towards greater advocacy, education and showcase 

But hey, if the pretty picture falls away maybe ill take a page out of f Tom Monaghan’s book, ill sell it, go back to Canberra, and start my own cult. True Story.*

*A vehement ultra-conservative Roman-Catholic, Tom Monaghan sold his share of Domino’s and funded Ave Maria Town (est. 2007) in Florida, a religious-centric planned community.

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