Adelaide West - South Australia

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Darling Building Franklin Street

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28 Franklin Street.

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 Classic Reminder of Adelaide's Grain Dynasty 

Abandonment comes with many excuses. Unappreciated, unviable, unusable, the lure of the new…and often a lack of will or energy. In 1997, the Darling Building was abandoned for all of the above.

80 years of continuous occupation with little to no ongoing investment had taken its toll. The once proud flagship of a family grain empire drifted unoccupied for close to 20 years but for roosting pigeons and the occasional squatter. We found it essentially as the day it was left…albeit with a thick layer of grime and 20 years of neglect that was beginning to severely affect the roof and structure.

This was always a project in two parts….A viable commercial proposition – there were other investors so premium lettable space was a priority, and a home for WBL.

The major stumbling block was the balance of investment and renewal against the requirements of the Building Code. Initial investigations of full DDA compliance, change in classification and resulting structural upgrade proved financially unsustainable for the return.

So an untried path (on this scale) of “continuation” was pursued - upgrade and reuse using the existing classification, prioritising fire safety and adopting a process of minimally invasive adaptation. Essentially, the Darling Building predates the new Ministers specification for upgrade and reuse of buildings…but is its pioneer and its poster child. Unlike many  properties in the East End or Leigh street precincts, where control of a precinct by a single entity potentially allows disproportionate investment in some properties, Darling Building was (and is ) an orphan, destined to stand alone financially, and from an infrastructure viewpoint – including its own version of a grid supplementing Red Flow battery system.

The brief was underpinned by WBL's values – Creativity, Collaboration, Enrichment, Authenticity and Heart.

The strategy was to touch as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Contrasting the gritty exposed building fabric are delicate and detailed insertions. These soften the masculine with the feminine, the practical with the beautiful. Repair was to be celebrated, understanding that an object or a space can be more beautiful for having been broken, a story told, age and patina a virtue, and quality paramount, but not at the expense of the authentic.

This philosophy creeps into the secondary fit-out of spaces. WBL's studio and Botten Levinson's open plan offices, explored the opportunities of individual identity within a cohesive whole. With newer tenancies, Venture Far, Amplified Intelligence and Ascend investments, this theme is manipulated with a balance representative of their own budgets, and identities, and those of the spaces they inhabit within the Darling Building.

100 years on, Darling Building remains a reminder of an Adelaide grain dynasty, a symbol of a time when civic pride and patronage in Architecture was considered advantageous, and now an exemplar of renewal for a creative and technical age that values authenticity and heart.

 Williams Burton Leopardi

Awards 2017-2018 (Darling Building)

2018 Form Innovation Awards
Overall Winner – The Darling Building

2018 Form Innovation Awards
Built Environment

2018 South Australian Architecture Awards
City of Adelaide Prize Commendation – The Darling Building

2018 South Australian Architecture Awards
City of Adelaide Prize People's Choice – The Darling Building

2018 South Australian Architecture Awards
The Keith Neighbour Award for Commercial Architecture – The Darling Building

2018 South Australian Architecture Awards
The David Saunders Award for Heritage – The Darling Building

2018 South Australian Architecture Awards
Award for Sustainable Architecture – The Darling Building

Award for Design Excellence

2017 DIA SA
Gold Award for Workplace Design