LocationSt. Kilda, Victoria, Australia
Text description provided by the architects. Harper Lane is an infill residential development built on a vacant ‘L’ shaped site – ‘leftover’ land wrapping around a 1930s telephone exchange. The client was a joint venture partnership between Neometro Projects and Icon Developments. Their brief was for a commercially viable residential development, working with an economical construction budget. Emphasis was also placed on achieving a high quality of amenity for the occupiers and responding to the concerns of the adjoining residential neighbourhood.The project provides 65 residential apartments and 1 commercial tenancy in 2 buildings, varying in height from 3 to 6 storeys. The site has 3m fall from the northern boundary towards Inkerman Street, allowing the lower levels to be ‘cut in’, with a café, a relocated substation and the upper basement car park on grade at the Inkerman St frontage while first floor apartments access the garden level at the rear.
The architectural response is a repetitive, economical design which re-visits the modernist model of dual aspect apartments with external gallery walkway access, creating opportunities for natural ventilation and daylight penetration that are not achievable with standard internal double loaded corridors. The predominant plan type of one bedroom apartments has bathrooms abutting walkways, providing a ‘buffer’ to bedrooms. Openable windows above entry doors achieve cross ventilation without loss of privacy.
Externally black detailing and areas of natural timber relieve a simple palette of grey and white precast concrete. Robust elevations are enlivened by external blinds in 2 shades of green, and climbing vines on the facades. The Inkerman Street elevation responds to the simplicity of the adjoining Exchange building with a horizontal emphasis created by an asymmetrical composition of projecting ‘off form’ balconies, and horizontal GRC blades on the west façade. Internally the compact apartment layouts feel more spacious due to higher than standard ceiling heights and the use of sliding screens as room dividers. Interior fitouts reflect the external building aesthetic with concrete floors and black joinery, and a ‘punch’ of colour provided as a detail.
The project aimed to facilitate a sense of community within the development and to integrate with the existing neighbourhood. The small café, creating activity at street level, is located next to the entry walkway to maximize opportunities for interaction. Balconies overlook the walkway for improved security, and building access is split into 3 circulation zones to reduce corridor lengths with a maximum of 5 apartment entries per floor from each access point. A communal garden was created along the northern boundary, beneath a row of established trees that were kept to maintain existing screening between the site and adjoining residences.
A 6 star energy rating was predominantly achieved through the use of passive solar design principles, including north facing glazing to many of the units, and exposed concrete floors and shared thermal mass. External shading of glazing and walls and cross-ventilation to all units minimises reliance on air conditioning. Rainwater is harvested for toilet flushing and irrigation of the drought tolerant communal garden during the establishment period.