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Constructing an icon: no ordinary build for a new St Kilda landmark

As the scaffold progressively disappears, a new Melbourne icon will take its place in a highly prominent position perched above St Kilda Junction. Derided by detractors during the approvals process as a 'Lego Tower' due to its unique shape and multicoloured exterior, the term has now stuck in an endearing sense.

Officially called The Icon, the residential tower looks akin to a stack of irregularly sized building blocks placed atop one another. And it's The Icon's peculiar shape which represented a unique set of challenges for developer and builder Pace Development Group. Urban Melbourne visited the construction site to gain an understanding of the complexities represented by the irregular shaped tower, with Pace's Project Manager Ian Hastie providing a top to bottom guide of the 18 level complex.

With the basis of the structure designed by CBD-based Jackson Clement Burrows, the intricacies of the design documentation process were handled by Pace's internal team, aiding in the streamlining of the build process. Ian Hastie explained that when design to construction and everything that lies in between is handled internally, it provides a higher level of certainty for both the developer and apartment purchaser.

Whether it be a choice of material for a particular finish or a customer seeking to merge two apartments into a larger dwelling, the internalising of as many design and decision-making matters as possible allows for a streamlined process.

The Icon prior to yesterday's initial unveiling

Of course the above doesn't necessarily aid with the delivery of an irregularly shaped form. No perimeter safety screens could be employed during the build, resulting in the need for scaffolding to precede the form and pour of every level. A feat of engineering in itself, the scaffolding 'shroud' will be disassembled over a three month period as external finishes are progressively completed.

Posing a serious challenge were the cantilevered tower sections, the most prominent of which fronts St Kilda Road. Temporary steel girders set outwards at regular intervals were fixed to the slab below in order to support the formwork and platforms/scaffolding which have enabled the tower to jut out markedly, with nothing below the girders but the street level some 15 storeys below.

Ian Hastie conceded it's certainly not the most efficient method of delivering a residential tower, but is in line with Pace Development Group's aim to keep pushing boundaries, both in a design and building technologies perspective.

First look at The Icon's mid tower exterior

It goes without saying that the the exterior is The Icon's highlight, with artist Matthew Johnson brought on board to aid in the final colour selections and patterns that will define Pace's tallest and most recognisable project to date. Cognisant that the developer will be associated with The Icon for years to come, Ian Hastie emphasised that much thought and effort went into achieving the desired finish to the tower's exterior.

Violet, indigo blue, moss green and luminous yellow are a handful of the chosen colours that will adorn the exterior by way of hundreds of individual perforated mesh screens. Pace’s care to detail is highlighted by the heads of all bolt fixings which are colour matched to their respective screens, also extending to the tracks which the screens are ultimately fixed to.

Double powder coated and holding a 20 year product warranty, the mesh screens will extend to the undersides of all the stacked volumes, thus providing The Icon with a complete exterior wrap. This is best demonstrated by the render below depicting the communal area with a more than unique ceiling.

Backing the screening will be precast panels or Kingspan composite panels which between them form the exterior wall. Lightweight yet impact resistant, the Kingspan panels provide excellent acoustic and thermal properties owing to their polyisocyanurate foam core - with the colours naturally changing to compliment the screening.

The Icon's communal area; current and intended

The first apartment interior has been completed (see slide show below) whilst work has begun in earnest of the podium-top communal area which will feature an indoor entertaining area and outdoor terrace. Sections of an above ground parking level has been commandeered to create what is essentially a production line churning out elements for The Icon's exterior.

Yesterday saw the unveiling of level 18 of The Icon, revealing the first layer of the structures multicoloured and intricate exterior. Looking ahead scaffolding will be pared back at roughly one level per week, with The Icon due to be seen in its entirety by the beginning of August.

Urban Melbourne will be present when The Icon is completed to provide readers with a overview of what is destined to become one of Melbourne's stand out residential projects. In the meantime, listen to relevant project members speak on The Icon at its official website.

Additional images of Urban Melbourne's site tour are below.

The tower crane with Melbourne's CBD as a backdrop
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