- McBride Charles Ryan
- Swanston Street, 3000 Melbourne
Our project was for an eight level apartment building comprising of 136 apartments above a 3-storey retail podium by another firm. The elation of our first large commission was tempered by a terrifying sense of responsibility - the design of a speculative apartment building opposite the historic State Library, its forecourt and Melbourne's ceremonial axis. At this scale our architectural anxieties were amplified. We faced a shifting program (or market), a limited material palette and the repetitive language of the typology which resisted our preference for a single gesture. The design also had to survive the rigours and inevitable cost-cutting of speculative construction. The breakthrough came when we divorced the apartments from their retail podium by a transfer slab. The new building was a simple object but one capable of responding to a multitude of urban conditions. We heightened the tensions between podium and tower, historical city datum and contemporary skyline. We inflected the form by the presence of the State Library's dome. We accepted stacking and repetition, seeking its intrinsic value and resonance. Focusing on materials which were appropriate to the site, that had longevity and which would enhance the form we alternated bands of polished black concrete and pearlised painted metal fins / black aluminium. Within the singularity of the form we had a parallel ambition to design every apartment differently. In each apartment a similar model is followed, a central service core contains the kitchen, bathroom, mechanical services and joinery. Sliding doors retract into the core to allow for continuous circulation and flexibility. Surprisingly we found that the more convoluted the apartment perimeter the better the apartment. The shape which was originally about public responsibility was now increasing the private amenity. The building's distorted envelope resulted in seventeen unique apartments, multiplied by four colour schemes. We had approached our ambition.