Newtown has long been home to an eclectic mix of artisans, makers and creatives, making it one of Sydney’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. So it’s not surprising the inner-west suburb will boast the city’s first communal workspace for motorcycle enthusiasts when Rising Sun Workshop (RSW) opens its doors to the public this week.
The member-based organisation originated three years ago through a crowd-funding scheme that saw $40,000 raised to get the initiative off the ground. Its first iteration was a temporary pop-up that provided space for novices and experts to work on their motorcycles. Also included was a café, which the five co-owners viewed as fundamental to their vision of creating a place that celebrates community and brings people together. As co-owner and culinary creative Nick Smith explains, “A café is a key characteristic of many hybrid business models emerging in social enterprise today. We see it as being an integral part of the RSW hub.”
Located on the ground floor (alongside the workshop) and throughout the mezzanine level, the café is refreshingly lo-fi in concept. Co-owner and architect Heleana Genaus led the design process and ensured a stripped-back aesthetic to make the most of the 117-year-old building’s bones. However, it wasn’t without its challenges, as the interior had been poorly maintained over an extended period of time and was in extremely bad condition; not that Genaus was deterred.
“With so many sheds like this being removed for redevelopment, we felt a massive privilege to engage in adaptive re-use of this space,” she reflects. “Stripping the false ceilings and paint from the brick walls, hardwood beams, columns and floorboards, meant the interior had instant character before we started adding to it.”
A team of friends, acquaintances and workshop members volunteered their time and skills to assist in the fit-out’s construction. The resulting scheme is configured so that anyone at work in the workshop doesn’t appear on display, but still has a sense of connection to the buzz in the café. Seating has been thoughtfully arranged and all the dining tables were custom designed and handmade by the volunteers, as were many of the light fittings.
For a space so cavernous, the café feels unexpectedly intimate, undoubtedly due to the warmth of the timber features and existing brick, as well as the use of red colour accents. But the interior’s inviting quality has something also to do with the spirit in which it was realised. “We wanted to open a place where people could feel part of something, welcome and at home,” says Smith. “Diners know they’re supporting a community when they come here to enjoy a meal or coffee and the message of collaboration is strong.”
Rising Sun Workshop
Photography by Kate Disher-Quill