Artistic treatment of materials provides an understated elegance, writes Stephen Crafti.
Scaffolding around the building in Domain Road, South Yarra, has been keeping passers-by intrigued for months. Designed by award-winning Wood Marsh Architecture, the building is contemporary and sophisticated. And rather than screaming for attention, there's an understated elegance.
The project, comprising four apartments built by Schiavello - which also specialises in high-end furniture - it is destined to become a Melbourne landmark.
Elevated on an angled concrete podium, this building makes creative use of in situ concrete, glass, aluminium and steel. And rather than creating one facade repeated on three sides, Wood Marsh devised three responses.
To the rear, the building is predominantly concrete, with large punctuated openings for windows. The Domain Road elevation is entirely glazed, with faceted glass walls reflecting the Botanic Gardens opposite. Included in this aspect is a pond on one of the terraces, with water reflecting autumn leaves.
"We saw this building like a Mondrian painting. It's not just the rectilinear glass panes, separated by fine aluminium, it's also the texture produced through this faceted approach," says architect Randal Marsh, co-director of the practice, who worked with project architect David Goss.
While the facade to Domain Road appears in contrast to the rear of the building, which is almost all concrete, Marsh points out that the apertures on both ends are similar, with the choice of materials creating different outcomes.
"It's a development that reflects on contemporary artists such as Sol LeWitt. They produce different results depending on the tones of their palette," says Marsh.
Rather than "cut" into the facade from Domain Road, the architects located the entry in Millswyn Street, creating a more private sense of arrival. This facade is described by Marsh as "eating away the concrete" (metaphorically).
The glass becomes more prevalent as you move towards Domain Road. There are three apartments at ground level, and Wood Marsh Architecture was keen to create privacy, as well as conceal basement car parking.
The flared concrete podium, which wraps around three sides of the building, is bush hammered for additional texture.
"It's similar to the finish of the concrete columns in the National Gallery of Victoria. But the podium also anchors the generous glazing," says Marsh, who used a dark charcoal glass.
Although the view of the gardens opposite is one of the city's most prized, there's also a dramatic "Babylon-style" garden that pierces all three levels.
At the top level is a large terrace and lap pool, while at ground level are verdant gardens. The architects also made use of the rooftop to create an expansive garden.
As impressive are the interiors, starting from the dramatic foyer, with its generous ceiling height.
And as with all Wood Marsh's architecture, materials used for the exterior are carried through to the interior.
Concrete ceilings, combined with stained black timber walls, are enhanced by fine brass detailing, such as on a fireplace.
And spaces have been cleverly articulated to ensure light-filled views from every aspect.
A void separates a kitchen from a dining area on one level and a study/living area on another.
"There's a high level of detail in this development," says Marsh. "Each glass capping had to perfectly align to create the picture we were after."