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 fa├žade 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.