Margaret River Chocolate Factory - Chindarsi Architects

front facade, from the carpark 

On a couple of visits to the South-West recently, I have had occasion to visit the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. The chocolate is great - the white chocolate is probably the smoothest and richest I have encountered so far, and their 55% cocoa dark is nice to eat (I always find the 70-80% ones a bit too bitter).

front facade detail - plywood lap-joined, sometimes painted.

It is obvious that everybody loves chocolate. The Chocolate Factory is (by my observation) the most popular, by a substantial margin destination in an area packed with interesting touristy destinations, and booming little resort towns (Margaret River is actually not so little these days, and has acquired an interesting urban feel). The Factory is setting to scenes of abandoned gluttony as hordes of tourists line up at the 3 tasting bowls (dairy, milk and dark) and gorge themselves way beyond any pretense of 'sampling'. All this creates a mood of great generosity and good cheer, and must be working because the building has doubled in size after ten years of operation.

entry screen detail - rough cut and treated wood on steel frame 

The building itself is fantastic. The atmosphere inside is always buzzing (large numbers of people eating free chocolate really does create a collective experience unlike any other, free alcohol included), which undoubted colours attempts at analytical thought, but I think the building achieves a fantastic synergy of place and purpose. It makes a good utilitarian space, which is at turns rural rustic and fine-food luxury, with a great presence in the landscape, connection to the outside from within (carefully managed - this interior is very much one of containment). Best of all, this has been achieved with very simple, inexpensive materials (chiefly plywood, both inside and out), with clean and simple tectonics - nothing overly fussy.

The landscape scheme is also very effective - an approach with a sense of occasion, and the building sitting in a parkland which includes substantial numbers of good-sized native Marris, mixed with exotics like Jacaranda.

 interior, entry screen, exposed curved steel roof truss joins plywood bulkhead

The Chocolate Factory extensions are by Chindarsi Architects, as is the nearby Providore.

If you can't make it to Margaret River, there is also one in the Swan Valley - I don't know anything about the building though!


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