Architect . Jean-Paul Rollo Architects / Construction . Raisin & Braden / Photography . Peter Bennetts
This modern apartment, for a writer and his wife, is located at the edge of the Melbourne CBD, on a streetscape of Victorian terraces, in close proximity of the Carlton Gardens.
It is a purposeful expression of ideas of how the couple wish to live in their later years. It is about an intensive investigation of space management, of reconstructed space and how you use it. It is an exercise in understated luxury.
The building is a three storey tilt-panel concrete box from the early 1990s. It comprises a street level commercial tenancy and two apartments. The apartment occupies the middle level and has access to a large rooftop terrace providing views over the city and the Carlton roofscape.
East facing windows and balconies look directly into the canopy of a large plane tree. An internal north facing court drags northern light and sunshine into the apartment.
A decision was made early to strip the existing apartment back to its bare concrete fabric and start over with a brand new reconstruction of the spaces to be inhabited. The discovery of large structural concrete beams meant that in the spaces between ceiling heights were raised to three metres, adding to the sense of space and intense clarity required by the owners.
The material palette is restricted and rich: travertine slabs left unfilled and ungrouted for floors throughout and wall surfaces in bathrooms; white carrara marble for benchtops and American oak joinery. The travertine floors and walls were placed precisely in a grid that defines the entire space.
A large freestanding joinery element of American oak "inserted" beneath the concrete beams is employed as the main generator of the plan. The result is a column-free space divided only by the timber box. The box contains, to one side, kitchen cabinetry and storage, then wraps along one side of a wide hallway and helps enclose a walk-in robe and an ensuite bathroom. The oak box "floats" 20mm over the floor, as does the white carrara kitchen bench, which extends into the apartment's courtyard and was constructed as if to appear to have been carved from a single block of marble.
The two bedrooms are separated by a screen wall of full height sliding panels to help enclose or open the spaces as required. A three metre tall pivot door also helps enclose the second bedroom. A large library, of walnut, and a 4.8 m marble-topped storage unit were specially designed for the apartment.