Thursday, 14 September 2017

This blog explores ways of thinking about the relationship between architecture and urban environments.  The title Components of Place provides a starting point- thinking about architecture not so much as autonomous objects imposed on an environment but elements that serve the city, enhancing its sense of public and private habitability and reflecting the civility of a cooperative and well functioning society.

Reinforcing Urban Character in Toorak Road

The Benson is a boutique retirement apartment complex developed on land adjoining the St Peters Catholic church.  Initiated by the Armadale and Toorak Parish, the project also includes development of new parish facilities and is occurring in parallel with restoration of the stonework of the church.  The end result of the development will be a coherent, almost collegiate complex of buildings linked by a courtyard space- a complex that thoughtfully responds to the broader urban environment.

We analysed the immediate area around the church complex, an area largely defined by some fine interwar apartment buildings, including a distinguished row extending up to the corner of St George’s Road.

These present a picturesque streetscape largely defined by prominent and steeply pitched terra cotta roofs punctuated with the dominant vertical accents of tall chimneys, with a mix of styles from...

...Old English inspired arts and crafts to....

... Mediterranean influenced styles. 

Apart from the common roof material, deep eaves overhangs and textured and detailed wall surfaces (mainly rendered) link these styles together into an attractive street boundary.

 We reflected the lively roof forms of these neighbours in the new building, at the same time responding to the picturesque asymmetric massing of the late Gothic church.  The language of the new building blends and arts and crafts influences to the Toorak Road frontage, featuring a characteristic palette of roughcast render, terra cotta shingle roofs, expressed rafters and lining boards, detailed label mould trims and a quatrefoil decorative motif to porches and parapets.

The building layers back into the site to open up sightlines from Toorak Road towards the church, and the courtyard formed between the church and the building frames a vista crossed by a pergola arbour and terminated with a façade pavilion featuring a bay window, and a steep gable framed by stone corbels.  The sequence of elements draws the eye into the space, a series of related elements at various depths within the courtyard view.

The northern pavilion blends the language of the Toorak Road pavilion with more classical proportions.  We retained similar materials but introduced some face brickwork to assist in articulating the building mass.

At the time of writing the building construction is well underway, with the silhouette of the building form now emerging and its relationship to its neighbours increasingly apparent.

We look forward to providing further updates as this landmark building nears completion.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Components of Place: Urban Repair in Malvern East

Component based design connects contemporary design practice to timeless ways of making coherent urban environments.  This approach treats buildings as the servants of these places, aggregating to create the consistent 'walls' of the city's urban 'rooms'- the streets, junctions and squares.  The constituent components of this architecture need to lend these public spaces human scale, tactile detail and an engaging sense of habitability.

So how does this approach work in a degraded urban environment in suburban Melbourne?

Our project at 1919 Malvern Road demonstrates, we think, some of these aspirations.  From the outset, we understood that the surrounding area was a place in transition, from a low scale local shopping area to a mixed use zone, where a scale of up to 4 storeys was permitted and even encouraged.  In thinking about our response, we addressed this change, but considered future possibilities.  If we aspire to restore urban quality, how could we set an example that would encourage adjoining land owners to think outside the boundaries of their site, and to offer something more to the public realm when redevelopment was contemplated?

This pictorial essay outlines our thought process, and suggests ways in which this area, Darling Junction, might be improved, even as the density of development increases.  This will require future development to be designed with strong attention to street level quality- and a component based design approach supports such an aim.

Darling Junction, c. 1930.  The area is very typical of interwar Melbourne suburban development, comprised of zero lot line shops serving surrounding residential areas.  Our research unearthed this period flyer, with photos showing the original urban character- shops with a classical and arts and crafts derived style.

Situation prior to commissioning: the urban structure is broken down by modernist development (petrol stations and garages) and low quality commercial buildings.  Some of the older interwar shops survive, but the area lacks coherence.  Click on the image to view this and subsequent images as a slideshow.

Concept for the new building: mixed use with office space on ground and first floors, with two storeys of residential apartments above.  The façade bays relate to the rhythm and width of the older shopfronts.  The expression of habitability is emphasised: shaded terraces, a colonnaded entry, high quality stonework, facade detail and extensive planters provide interest to the street wall and at the street edge.

Concept showing possible urban evolution: reinstate the definition of the street corners to give a sense of vista and urban structure, and reinforce these with human scale components that provide a visual transition to new, larger scale developments.  Smaller facade bays allow for street activation,  and facades are given depth and texture. A density increase with enhancement, rather than degradation, of the public realm.

The completed building.  The development provides a high quality 'anchor' for the future evolution of Darling Junction.

The building evokes the classical proportions and visual depth of the better surrounding buildings, such as the former State Bank building that adjoins it.

The facade is deeply layered to give a sense of habitability: generous protected terraces, shading shutters, restrained facade decoration, cofferered ceilings and textured stone invite closer examination.

Detail of the entry colonnade.  A protected semi public area with bespoke lighting, fine materials and planting add an unexpected civic quality to the adjoining public space.