ART of architecture

Melbourne's iconic arts precinct helped shape the design of the new Triptych apartment tower, which was conceived as an artwork in itself
View the lounge area of an apartment at apartment, architecture, ceiling, condominium, daylighting, estate, floor, flooring, hardwood, interior design, living room, loft, penthouse apartment, property, real estate, window, wood, wood flooring, gray
View the lounge area of an apartment at the Tripych residential tower which features timber flooring, lounge suite and lighting.

Any new high-rise in an area renowned for its innovative architecture has a lot to live up to. Melbourne's arts centre home to the Arts Spire, Melbourne Recital Centre and National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is exactly such a precinct.

It was this backdrop that influenced the design of the newest building on the block, the Triptych residential tower developed by RI Investment Trust and Stable Group.

Danny Flynn, Stable Group managing director, says that right from the start the development team was conscious of a sense of responsibility.

"We knew the project had to be something that reflected its position and reiterated its value within the heart of a thriving and creative space," he says. "We were motivated to create a building that could be a living work of art, and consequently sought the creative talent that could make this happen."

Nettletontribe was contracted to design the building, with substantial input from renowned Australian artist Robert Owen.

Architect Jeremy Bishop says the design was also strongly influenced by the awkward triangular shape of the site, which has two street frontages.

"We wanted to take advantage of a view east to the NGV and the Royal Botanical Gardens," he says. "This dictated the main axis of the building and the strict grid arrangement of the apartments, which provided the most flexibility for the developers. This axis also allowed for a view back to the city from the other street frontage, and meant the building could effectively turn its back to the third side of the triangle and the adjacent building. The result is an arrow-shaped building, with an open space at the end, which we could use as a light source, and where we could locate a podium deck and pool."

Due to a high water table, the car parking needed to be above ground, which in turn created a need for architectural screening of the parking podium.

"We initially thought we could use the podium screen as the basis of a large-scale artwork, but the idea evolved over time to become something much more encompassing," says Bishop. "Working with Robert Owen, we were able to integrate the screen podium and glass facade in line with his artistic vision, which reinforces the building's unique form and elegant design."

Owen's artwork, titled Digital Showers, presents a prism of colours cascading down the building's exterior. The coloured glass panels are reminiscent of sun-lit raindrops, which flow down to disperse in three-dimensional coloured puddles at the base.

Interior view of the atrium of the Triptych apartment, architecture, estate, floor, flooring, hardwood, interior design, laminate flooring, lobby, real estate, wood, wood flooring, orange
Interior view of the atrium of the Triptych residential apartments which features timber flooring, windows, lighting.

The design also incorporates an organic cellular pattern that is repeated in key areas of the building, including the precast concrete facade. The pattern reappears on the metal screen at the entry, on the soaring glass walls in the lift lobbies, and on the metal gates that lead to the apartments.

"The cellular pattern is part of the building's DNA," says Bishop. "It's a very organic artistic overlay for a building that is otherwise angular with a rigid grid, which has brought about a rather interesting juxtaposition."

The organic forms are reinforced by a vertical garden on the front of the podium, which is a tapestry of grasses and plants specifically selected to thrive in the urban setting. Inside, a series of vertical gardens provides greenery for the lift lobbies.

"We also explored different ways of treating the lobby spaces to provide opportunities for social interaction," says Bishop. "In traditional high-rise apartment buildings, residents take the lift from the foyer and step out into an isolated dark corridor and a series of closed doors. There is very little sense of engagement with other residents. We wanted to do something innovative to address this issue, so came up with the idea of urban villages, which are created by a series of three-storey buildings stacked on top of each other."

Bishop says the vertical villages group the 157apartments, with each unit in the group opening off a three-storey atrium that features fully glazed walls and a vertical garden.

"These spaces are the antithesis of a conventional high-rise lobby and passageway. They are light and airy, and provide the benefits of low-rise living, by encouraging social interaction."

Windows in the atriums allow the flow of fresh air, and are controlled by a motorised system that automatically opens and closes the windows depending on the weather.

In addition, the apartment entranceways allow fresh air to flow into the units, without compromising security. The design, inspired by old European houses, provides a private foyer for each apartment, with a lockable gate and aerated screen.

The cross ventilation is just one of a large number of sustainable design initiatives. Danny Flynn says it was important for Triptych to set a new benchmark for environmentally sustainable apartment design. Rather than just tout the sustainability tag, the project needed to incorporate the highest ESD principles.

"In optimising sustainable development, we have delivered both passive and active solutions. The passive solutions include the intelligent future proofing of the design, and the active solutions address a number of specific areas."

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View of indoor cantilevered pool featuring wooden seating, lighting, windows.

As well as the natural cross ventilation, the ESD initiatives include electricity co-generation, low-e double-glazed windows, water harvesting and the use of sustainable flooring materials.

Triptych is designed to reduce its impact on the electricity grid by generating its own power through co-generation. This process uses gas turbines to create electricity, which is then used to supply power to the common areas. The heat by-product of the co-generation process is used to warm the vertical villages via a hydronic heating system. It also supplements the heat for the domestic hot water system and swimming pool, ensuring little is wasted, and reducing costs to residents.

Rainwater is collected from the rooftop and level six podium, and stored on site, so it can be used to replenish the swimming pool. It is also used to irrigate the indoor and outdoor gardens, which were designed by Jamie Durie of Patio.

The podium rooftop garden incorporates a 25m pool, landscaped outdoor living area, yoga deck and gymnasium. The pool is cantilevered out from the building with windows in the end wall and on the bottom providing glimpses of the street below.

RI Investment Trust chairman Tony Ott says the open space is an important part of the building.

"The design maximises the use of greenery to provide a relaxing space away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We also wanted to offer the residents of Triptych an open space where they could meet their neighbours and enjoy being part of a community."

Similar attention has been paid to the apartment interiors by Carr Design. Director of interior design Daniel Stellini says the company deliberately created welcoming, home-style interiors. Taking into account the arts precinct, apartments have been designed with style and simplicity. This gives residents a canvas to showcase art and furniture, so they can personalise the spaces.

Other special features of the interiors include high ceilings and Italian-designed Poliform kitchens with high-end European appliances.

"Triptych is a collaboration of great Australian designers, all of whom have been sympathetic to the arts precinct," says Danny Flynn. "This has ensured the building and lifestyle on offer are deeply in tune with the location."

Dec 09, 2010

Credit list

RI Real Estate Funds Management; with
Interior design
Carr Design
Nettletontribe, project director – Jeremy Bishop
Landscape designer
Jamie Durie, Patio
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