Rob Kilby, General Manager of Darlo Bar, recently arrived at work to discover two young girls scoping the place out. All business, the girls wielded sketchbooks and were surveying the building. Naturally, Kilby enquired and the pair explained that their architecture assessment was to re-imagine Darlo Bar. Kilby spent that day watching determined students parade through his venue (documenting, visualising and snacking). Then he was struck by some inspiration of his own.

Darlo Bar will showcase the top 10 designs from 160 first-year architecture students from The University of Sydney. Specially constructed Perspex plinths will line the central Darlo stairway, giving guests a chance to view 3D models and the meticulous layouts of each design. Kilby, encouraged by lecturer in architecture Jennifer Ferng, curated 10 finalists from the massive cohort. “They were just keen to have them out on display,” Kilby says. So next Wednesday November 5th, Darlo Bar will launch the showcase, giving punters the chance to vote for their favourite concepts.

This is the first time these students have individually designed a building from the ground up. The Darlo Bar was chosen because it is a unique space and an architectural challenge. The bar is a geometric oddity, bounded by two major roads, with a hefty slope and a pronounced triangularity (at its peak, barely three meters wide). The assignment is considered an “urban infill” exercise – a repurposing of an existing inner-city space. Ferng’s brief imagines a world where Darlo Bar no longer exists (God forbid), and required the incorporation of a contemporary restaurant and urban farm. She explains that students were asked to explore, “Ecological systems within design” and “farm-to-table eating,” while bringing their own flare to the project.

The top 10 features a hive-shaped bee hive and honey retailer alongside futuristic fit-outs reminiscent of The Jetsons. Kilby chose the diverse selection based on visual instinct, or “what was the most interesting to look at.” Kilby’s everyman approach is reflective of the industry, effectively making him a client.

Ferng is grateful and delighted by Kilby’s support, describing the project as an, “Amazing kind of serendipity,” a rare and exciting, “Intersection between the university and the community.”

Regular Darlo-going readers rest assured: the venue has no plans to shut up shop any time soon. “I would be heartbroken if that was the case,” Kilby says. “This is just something else a creative mind has envisioned for the space.”

The showcase will open at Darlo Bar 6pm November 5th, with the designs remaining on display for around a month.