When people want to learn about recycling, they come here – to the Education Centre at Visy Recycling’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Auckland. Once drab and classroom-like, the interior has been re-imagined by Mathilde Polmard and Raimana Jones, of Atelier Jones, using repurposed materials and a bold palette. “Our key objective was to create a dynamic and energetic atmosphere by using vibrant colours to uplift the space,” says Polmard.
What was your approach to the project and what did you want to achieve with it?
Raimana Jones: The client’s brief was clear – she wanted colour, for the space to be tidy and practical, and an overall ease of use when teaching. As children are one of the main groups coming through the space, we aimed to make it exciting and engaging for them. The visual “safety” language of the MRF – bright “safety yellow” handrails and vivid blue ramps – also guided our palette. These colours would pair with existing elements of the room, such as the pink hard hats.
Being a recycling facility, I’m guessing some of the materials you used had a previous life.
RJ: We wanted to showcase the concept of recycling overtly and subtly. We created small snippets showcasing how materials are processed within the MRF facility, such as shredded glass, fibre, compressed aluminium and steel cans, all encased in a wall of clear-fronted boxes. We also used materials that represent the origins of each recycled waste product – bauxite for aluminium, iron ore for steel, wood for fibre, crude oil for plastic and limestone for glass. We incorporated these origin materials into mobile display units, each framed by a bright yellow box. The client really liked this idea, especially from an educational perspective as these would be easy to point at when teaching and the audience would form a link immediately. Additionally, we used products made by local companies from recycled material, such as a tabletop made from milk bottles or cladding made from Tetra Pak cartons.
Mathilde Polmard: We utilised about 85 percent of the existing fitout by re-upholstering existing couches, reusing shelves (which we sawed in half to fit the new design), and repurposing MDF cabinets, transforming and recladding them. The client also wanted to keep the existing foldable tables and stackable chairs, so we incorporated smart storage throughout to suit this need. We wanted to make sure we didn’t waste any opportunities to reuse the existing materials or resources of the space – without compromising on our design vision. I kept saying to Raimana, “Let’s treat the space like a building supply shop.”
Can you tell us a bit about your collaborative process?
MP: Each of us oversaw certain elements, while always bouncing ideas. It was good to have a strong concept to guide the bigger design decisions. I focussed on ergonomics, spatial organisation, budgeting, and the retrofitting of the existing cabinetry.
RJ: I am detail-oriented and good at resolution, CNC and metal fabrication, and have strong furniture knowledge. This came in handy, allowing us to resolve and make a lot of the bespoke elements in a relatively short span of time.