Purchased in late 2013 by Malaysian developer UEM Sunrise in conjunction with 224-252 LaTrobe Street, the site at 9-23 Mackenzie Street was part of an invited design competition that encompassed two sites and three teams of architects. A rare opportunity to compete for the rights to design two signature towers at the top end of the CBD, Cox Architecture were successful in securing design services following a process, which according to UEM Sunrise was "indicative of a desire from both the developer and the Architect to ensure that design excellence is integral to this development."
Occupying the site of an at-grade parking lot, the project would complete the block that also includes the Elenberg Fraser-designed 33 Mackenzie Street. Together the two sites once formed a much larger 4,000sqm development site once owned by Drapac who upon receiving approval for a 84m Peddle Thorp-designed office block promptly put the site on the market in 2008, before carving it up into two.
Adhering to the podium and tower typology sought by the Melbourne Planning Scheme, the development's 7-storey podium responds to its north facing outlook via a re-imagining of the verandah vernacular. Accommodating a wrap of apartments as the podium form transitions from rectilinear to curvilinear, this has resulted in the provision of an active edge to the Mackenzie Street frontage above ground level.
An inflection in the geometry of the podium aids in delineating the main entry point. Frontages to Bell Place are largely dedicated to ancillary activities with the exception of the cafe located at the corner with Mackenzie Street.
The tower form and configuration were achieved based on the following drivers:
- A tower plan that is responsive to its context and directs views through a curved facade to its east and west.
- A slender north and south facade which minimises visual obstruction and allows other buildings exposure to sunlight from the north.
- Articulation of the elliptical form to create vertical expression in the mass in particular to the address to Mackenzie Street and the axis of Drummond Street.
- A tower plan in an elliptical form to maximise the view amenity to Carlton Gardens and to reduce direct overlooking of existing and proposed apartments.
- The elliptical form has beneficial wind effects at street level as it encourages horizontal wind movement rather than creating downdrafts that a bluff faced rectilinear response would create.
The curvilinear tower form is expressed as a series of seven bands articulated with vertical perforated white screens that extend over 4 floors of the building at right angles. These culminate in a sloping bladed structure housing the conservatory terrace at its summit.
A variety of glazing types are employed over the facade ranging from a silver grey to a silver blue grey frit. Combined these elements form an “environmental skin” that provides partial protection from wind, rain and sun. This skin extends beyond the balcony line in an effort to provide a comfortable and quality outdoor environment allowing for a seamless interior-exterior experience.
The proposed development provides a welcome contrast to the solid and robust nature of neighbouring 33 Mackenzie Street. Height aside the two towers couldn't be anymore different, yet there is a sense of familiarity about both designs; two varying answers to the same question. By different architects.
I leave you with an Elenberg Fraser scheme that accompanied the sales campaign for the site.