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The School of Life Pop-Up, Collingwood

In early 2013, Melbourne’s Collingwood became home to Alain de Botton’s School of Life for three months.

This vacant lot and derelict warehouse had become a site for anti-social behaviour, so CoDesign helped property developers Small Giants and the nascent School of Life set up a temporary community space, shop and cafe.

Locals loved it and volunteered to help with the transformation, and the School of Life ran a sold-out program. Their business is now a major success story, the neighbours know each other, and the developer built social capital and is transforming the site into a green apartment block.

Because of the tight budget, CoDesign approached the design process differently: we did not give the client fait accompli with the drawings, but rapidly built and prototyped different ideas along the way, encouraging the client to be adventurous and to look at the opportunities of the project in a different way. The outcome is that the final space is full of personality and life – everyone has their fingerprints on it, and is invested in its success.