From being that friendly local who helps a lost out-of-towner, to contributing to the city’s art, food or music scene. All of our actions shape what grows around us.
It can be said that some of us play a bigger role than others, that some of us make decisions that impact how the rest of us participate in and contribute to our city.
For a developer this responsibility should weigh heavily on the decisions made day-in, day-out. Because design communicates so much. It can make you feel safe, it can bring you joy, it can connect and it can polarise.
says R.Corporation founder Andrew Rettig.
Design can be a tool that pushes a suburb forward or holds it back. In St Kilda we’re starting to see design bring parts of hospitality back from the clutches of its sometimes seedy, but once aspirational past.
The renovation of The Prince and the Espy, and the revitalisation of former eyesores by The Block, are moments in what has been a journey of ups and downs for the suburb.
What is happening in St Kilda today is part of a cycle of gentrification that has been going on for decades.
Its last high was in the early 2000s when the area was pumping. Packed with nightlife and restaurants, R.Corporation had a hand in its renewal with the redevelopment of St Kilda Railway Station.
Located on the wrong side of Fitzroy Street, the railway station was undergoing a transformation into light rail. By virtue of its heritage as Melbourne’s vibrant and cultural seaside suburb, a light rail station on its own wasn’t going to cut it. And if handled incorrectly, it could become a haven for St Kilda’s seedy side.
It was a classic example of how the right design decisions could drive the suburb forward, and the wrong ones could hold it back.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell launched the project with a performance featuring heavy machinery moving in synchronicity to classical music – and what was delivered created just as much talkability in its day. A bustling restaurant precinct, including David Jones’ first gourmet supermarket FoodChain, Metropol was a dynamic addition to Fitzroy Street.
As St Kilda revisits its gentrification journey well-imagined sites like Metropol will come back to contribute to the new reality for the suburb; showing that great design always delivers.
If the current pandemic environment has taught us anything, it is that as humans we need each other. We need community. But community needs to be designed. If connection hasn’t been thought about in a project, it makes chance encounters that much harder.
It’s true of cities and it’s true of the singular buildings that combine to create neighbourhoods, that combine to create suburbs, that combine to create a metropolis.
The creation of community was a critical factor to the design approach that underpinned the old Victoria Brewery site, located in East Melbourne, on the doorstep to Collingwood.
The design response had to consider the refurbishment of three original buildings – the Cohen Cellars, the Old Brew Tower and the Middle Brew Tower – as well as the thoughtful addition of the elements that would make the site a socially sustainable community.
To do this R.Corporation brought one of the world’s best designers Phillipe Starck to Australia for the first time and across the precinct delivered eight buildings with different names, different architects and different designers.
The Cellars and Middle Tower buildings have been converted into apartments, while the Old Brew Tower, which still holds a significant amount of its brewing equipment, is a mixed-use space featuring offices, a museum and a penthouse.
It was a bold approach back then and the result is a form that not only fuses contemporary and heritage architecture that retains the iconic façade of the brewery, but also creates a community that delivers the connection that makes a place feel like home.
By tapping into some of the newest thinking great developments become timeless in a city.
In 2005 this meant channelling early research on work/life balance and the science of what they now call biophilia into the development of an Asia Pacific headquarters for the world’s biggest company at the time, GE.
Located beside the site of the Burnley Horticultural College, part of the University of Melbourne, Botanicca is one of Melbourne’s first projects to pioneer wellbeing and balance at work through the design response.
On a heritage site, surrounded by gardens, it encourages a relationship with nature to reduce stress, promote clarity and encourage workers to connect and collaborate among nature.
It is also one of Victoria’s largest campus-style office park comprising modern office space alongside lifestyle amenity.
Adjoining bike and cycle paths, it is a government-backed development of state significance, and an iconic workplace address.
Located very close to a major rail corridor, the Clara site had its challenges as a former council tip – and a lot to prove, being also nestled in a highly exclusive enclave in South Yarra.
The design response sought to create a series of apartments and townhouses in a way so that the rail corridor wouldn’t impact residents. This included refurbishment of heritage stables into apartments and addition of a new tower overlooking the park, delivering lifetime northly views to residents.
At the heart of this was the leafy new park that replaced the tip, which has transformed the area, delivering not only the feeling of a sanctuary to the apartments, but also a beautiful reserve to the local residents.
It continues to nurture a friendly community hidden behind Chapel Street and Toorak Road’s bustling and busy frontages, contributing further to the sense of neighbourhood in these much loved back streets.