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DKO and designing Docklands

I don't think Melburnians understand Docklands yet. We see it as a suburb that needs time to evolve; it needs to find its own spirit, its own character.

Jesse Linardi, Design Director, DKO

As construction in and around Docklands continues at pace, Urban Melbourne thought it an opportune time to garner an update on the precinct from Docklands locals DKO Architecture. Architect Dennis Chew and Design Director Jesse Linardi were kind enough to discuss their experience of working 'on site' in addition to their two latest projects for Capital Alliance within Harbour Town.

The catalyst for the practice's relocation from Mitchell House on Lonsdale Street to Docklands was DKO's engagement in the masterplanning for NewQuay Central following MAB Corporation's acquisition of the site from ING. DKO seized the opportunity to be at the coalface so to speak, gaining intimate experience of the precinct.

Having developed the built form envelopes and urban design principles around the ground plane and laneways for NewQuay Central, DKO was subsequently engaged to design what is now Hiap Hoe's Marina Tower development.

Probuild are currently constructing Marina Tower. Image courtesy DKO

The story with NewQuay Central is around having diversity in the architectural built form, so getting a variety of architects involved in each project, away from the repetitive type of approach you might otherwise get from a single office. We talk about it as being part of the city so we tried to encourage an interesting skyline rather than a uniform one.

We really pushed for that which might seem illogical from a commercial decision making point of view, but we felt really strongly about having that diversity.

Jesse Linardi

DKO's work on NewQuay Central expanded to include a development site at 387-395 Docklands Drive which would deliver dual 17-storey buildings over two stages, replacing an earlier scheme by Hassell for a commercial building. The as yet unnamed project is due to begin its sales and marketing campaign shortly.

More masterplanning followed for MAB's NewQuay West which has gone through a number of iterations over the years, the latest incarnation being driven by the addition of Ron Barassi Snr Park. Similar to the initial stage of NewQuay Central, the process for the western precinct wasn't so much about architecture but more so diversity in scale and the impact of built form on built form, as well as the ground plane and pedestrian environment.

Within that framework are considerations of views, shadowing, solar access, wind; a set of principles which DKO's design team works from to derive a built form which they believe to be the best outcome possible.

NewQuay Masterplan. Image courtesy of DKO.

This in turn brings us to DKO's latest Docklands projects, 3-43 Waterfront Way and 26-38 Pearl River Road within Harbour Town. Offloaded by Ashe Morgan to emerging Melbourne developer Capital Alliance Investment Group, the at planning 3-43 Waterfront Way features a mixed-use tower of 37-storeys with the first 11 levels dedicated hotel accommodation with residential above.

The opportunity here was designing a mixed-use tower as opposed to a completely residential building, that's something we believe the precinct needs more of: true mixed-use developments. To punch through the existing building and create a direct connection back through to Docklands Drive and the pedestrian retail strip within Harbour Town was highly satisfying.

The other interesting thing about these sites, I believe there's an opportunity and scope for more height and scale than the CBD. The closest building to these sites could be 20-30m away, you don't get the same concerns and issues as those you might in the city, with regards to adjacencies, overlooking and so forth.

Historically this area of Docklands has had relatively low height limits. The driver for height on this site (3-43 Waterfront Way) is the new park and not overshadowing it, which is a logical way to look at it.

Jesse Linardi

The designs for both sites had to address key environmental impacts, in particular wind in places where there doesn't presently exist any built form. The buildings were designed to respond and mitigate the wind conditions; predominantly the westerly and northerly winds the site experiences.

At one stage the Pearl River Road site was going to be one building but was pulled apart to address the wind and allow it to pass through between the buildings rather than be driven downwards to the footpath.

It was about coming back to those earlier design principles once again. We tested the sites and envelopes quite rigorously with the wind engineer initially. What normally happens is you test it in the wind tunnel, the wind hits the building and creates a downward draught; you typically then provide a awning to deal with the issue.

For these sites the wind is literally carving and sculpting the buildings to provide a more comfortable and better walking condition at ground level.

Dennis Chew, Architect, DKO
The 37-storey mixed use tower at 3-43 Waterfront Way. Image courtesy of DKO.

Other design drivers include internal amenity such as minimising the number of apartments with only southerly aspects; the vast majority are afforded east or west outlooks. With the debate surrounding the introduction of apartment standards in Victoria, Jesse says a lot of those design principles and requirements are standard practice and come second nature to the office as part of their design process and that was most certainly be the case for the Harbour Town towers.

Where Pearl River Road and Waterfront Way were initially treated as service roads for the existing retail and ice rink offerings within Harbour Town, the new buildings look to activate them and encourage pedestrian movement through whilst also transforming the look and feel of the area.

The fact that their client, Capital Alliance Investment Group was passionate about good design, amenity and quality outcomes made DKO's task far more appealing. This manifested itself via the client's desire to provide residents and guests with a unique experience by way of a infinity rooftop pool in a similar vein to Marina Bay Sands Singapore, with views back towards the CBD.

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