MA Architects' Karen Alcock discusses Parkside, Footscray

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Montalto Properties is pushing ahead with its Parkside residential project at 2b Ballarat Road in the burgeoning suburb of Footscray. Designed by MA Architects the boutique development of 23 residences capitalises on never-to-be-built-out views over Flemington Racecourse and the Maribyrnong River. The five-storey development replaces an at grade car park and sits east of a series of walk up flats.

Due to the nature of its park side location - which unsurprisingly was the inspiration for the project name - the development has been designed 'in the round' according to MA Architects' Karen Alcock, who sat down with Urban.com.au to discuss the design strategy behind Parkside. 

The view from the balcony across the Maribyrnong River. Image: Supplied

Karen describes the site as a "bloody unique opportunity" and she would know, having spent the best part of the last 20 years working on multi-residential and award winning housing projects. Karen established MA Architects after 10 years as a co-director of Neometro Architects and brings a strong design focus to projects, ensuring the practice delivers something surprising and buildings which work, particularly at the ground level.

Karen says Parkside has been designed to open up to the north aspect, while its base is landscaped to soften the car park frontages with a pergola provided to the street, with practical experience dictating the use of wisteria and vines. At the same time Karen emphasises the importance of designing buildings which are still good to look at while the vegetation takes time to flourish. Projects which rely too much on vegetation to conceal poor architecture are still poor buildings, she argues.

In terms of the spatial planning of Parkside, the two and three-bedroom apartments have been located along the north, one-bedroom apartments to the south while a series of penthouses occupy the top floor above the three floors of typical apartments. Irrespective of size however, Karen says that the practice always approaches the design of apartments in the same manner they would approach the design of a house, that is with a sense of longevity so that it feels like somewhere you could live in for a long period.

Historically MAA-designed projects have also utilised outdoor blinds to balconies which are size appropriately and practical to use, and Parkside is no different. The practice's work has also traditionally featured kitchens and bathrooms which are interesting but simple, with Karen noting that houses are "more than just kitchens" and that it's crucial to "make sure the bones are right" ie providing a robust shell that requires little maintenance.

A typical kitchen at Parkside. Image: Supplied

During the early days of Neometro, they would often ask themselves the question "would you want to live here?" and this still resonates with the projects Karen and her team are working on today, and this ethos certainly informed the design of Parkside.

Parkside adds to Footscray's development pipeline, with the inner city suburb fast becoming a major metropolitan activity centre to cater for the predicted 40% growth Melbourne's west is expected to experience in the next 40 years. An interactive round up of development activity within Footscray is illustrated in Urban.com.au's map below:

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