Stigmatised by the 1960s utilitarianism of Melbourne’s high-rise social housing, multi-residential typologies in the CBD remained untried and presumably unwanted until the mid-1990s, when Melbourne Terrace became the city’s de facto standard-bearer for high-density living.
Melbourne Terrace P/L
Bunurong and Wurundjeri people
Australian Institute of Architects VIC Awards, Enduring Architecture Award, 2019
Holding a prominent corner in a once unloved, but long since rejuvenated area of central Melbourne, this six- to eight-storey articulation of four vertical terraces comprises various types and sizes of apartments, plus a small office, retail tenancy and cafe to provide street-level engagement.
On grade car parking is masked along its sloping northern boundary by a ficus ivy-covered protective wall, establishing a powerful base from which the building’s imposing, yet modestly scaled form emerges.
Into this wall are carved distinctive entrances to each terrace. Announced by the literal integration of figurative sculptures in copper-infused concrete by Australian artist, Peter Corlett, these entrances open onto dedicated cores that service two or four apartments per level.
This interplay of order and exuberance extends across the entire building facade, with the classical formality of its predominately concrete hulk contrasted by sculptural and ornamental excess that borders on the baroque.
Combining a rich variegation of shape, texture and colour, with a mix of precious and industrial materials, creating a sense of crafted individuality. It thus eschewed the soulless repetition of the prevailing multi-residential archetype and imbued each apartment with a sense of uniqueness more akin to a traditional freestanding home.
The exception that proved the rule, this first foray into multi-apartment design for the practice was profoundly successful – the apartments sold virtually overnight; Melbourne and Melburnians began embracing inner-city living with exponential fervour; and the building continues to be held up as a benchmark approach to multi-residential architecture.