Fender Katsalidis reflects on the last 25 years while looking to the future with book launch

Laurence DragomirMay 15, 20170 min read

After 25 years Melbourne-based practice Fender Katsalidis Architects (FK), best known for designing some of the most recognised buildings in the city have launched their first ever book; Working Architecture. The publication traces the evolution of the practice and its work while providing an opportunity to reflect on its history and the significant projects completed to date.

Fender Katsalidis reflects on the last 25 years while looking to the future with book launch
Fender Katsalidis: Working Architecture. Image: Uro Publications

31 projects have been selected from the FK portfolio, as exemplars which also reflect founding directors Karl Fender and Nonda Katsalidis’ attitude towards design excellence and innovation across as range of sectors from the arts, commerce, bespoke houses and through to apartment design, where the practice has had a significant influence on Australia’s built environments.

FK has helped shape and enhance the quality of Melbourne’s architecture through its many residential buildings from the early years of the practice through to the present day. These include FK’s early works such as the Melbourne Terrace Apartments and Republic Tower, and more recently Eureka Tower and Australia 108, all of which continue to attract residents and generate commercial interest and investment in the central city.

The Republic Tower on the corner of Queen and LaTrobe Streets is seen as a pioneer in high-rise residential living within Melbourne. Completed in 1999 its off-form concrete, stainless steel and glazed form anchors the street corner from atop a 5-storey timber lattice podium which plays host to an ever changing body of artwork - one of the first buildings in the city to do so.

... Republic has excited the debate about city living. On one hand it is a place for individuals and groups to live and work, but it is also an exercise in urbanity and urban design especially.
The building reinforces a tall, central city plan: the inner grid of Melbourne is like an island, like a Manhattan. In that context, these high-rise towers montage as the city design: together, not separately, they are the aesthetic of the city.What distinguishes Republic Tower from most of its neighbours is the confident expression of structure and building that is evident in the design, along with the unremitting act of providing good living spaces.
NFK’s work is distinguished by its expressed buildability: it’s almost an ‘architecture for architects’ culture, where the structure of beams, columns, steel and concrete – and the materiality of tiles, glass and textures – are composed without further complexity.

- Norman Day, Architecture Australia – January 2000 (Vol 89 No 1)

Fender Katsalidis reflects on the last 25 years while looking to the future with book launch
Republic Tower. Images: John Gollings

A few hundred metres down the street near the market, another FK project marks the corner and defines the streetscape; Melbourne Terrace. Accommodating 60 apartments over seven floors the building is distinguished by its robust, masculine exterior once again employing Katsalidis' signature off form concrete, steel and glazing to produce what is still considered one of the best examples of medium-density, city living in Melbourne if not Australia.   

One of the first new apartment blocks to be constructed in central Melbourne in the early 1990s, it promoted the benefits of medium/high density city living, sparked a regeneration of its immediate locale adjacent to the Queen Victoria Market and provided a successful residential model for the city’s redevelopment policies. Katsalidis’s design invokes exuberant decorative and formal effects to enrich the urban facade, using copper-etched vertical slabs, weathered copper cladding, mannered window surrounds, glass blocks, brutalist and expressive concrete forms often with serrated edges, and a highly articulated roof line. Internally the large building bulk is divided into four discrete sections and each given a unique name, Equus, Mondo, Roma and Fortuna. This has the benefit of creating a more intimate experience for its inhabitants and also reduces the scale of the building’s management and overheads. Peter Corlett’s bold sculptures announce each of the building’s entrances and highlight its baroque and playful qualities

- Australian Institute of Architects

Fender Katsalidis reflects on the last 25 years while looking to the future with book launch
Melbourne Terrace. Image: John Gollings

The tallest of FK's projects in Melbourne (to date) commands the Melbourne skyline, rising 297m or 91-storeys above Southbank and is embodied with visual references to its namesake, the Eureka Stockade. Upon completion in 2006, Eureka claimed the title of tallest residential building in the southern hemisphere - a point of contention for our friends up on the Gold Coast - in addition to becoming Melbourne's tallest building and relegating the Rialto to second spot in the process.

Eureka Tower is a symbol of the transcendence of high density living over what has traditionally been the low suburban density mindset of Melbourne. In this respect, Eureka is an unlikely and remarkable example of Melbourne`s acceptance of high density sustainable living. Public/Cultural Benefits Eureka provides an internationally regarded symbol of place and purpose, heralding recognition of the need for a high density approach to sustainability in our built environment. 583 families will activate and enrich this precinct, with ground level amenities existing through convenience retail and restaurants, and a public observation facility at its peak. Built Form to Context Relationship The site had a permit for two towers. The idea of stacking them created the statement, but also reduced the wind/shadow impacts. Designed to stand tall and interact with Rialto Towers as a pair of sentinels to Melbourne`s river precinct - it`s glazing colour is similar and its form is visually arresting and changing from various vantage points.

- Fender Katsalidis

Fender Katsalidis reflects on the last 25 years while looking to the future with book launch
Eureka Tower. Image: John Gollings

A series of high-profile projects are currently underway which seek to build upon the FK legacy as the practice continues to shape Melbourne’s city and skyline. Eureka's sister building, the 317m Australia 108 is currently under construction on Southbank, while dual apartment towers of 79-storeys on Queen Street in the CBD (in collaboration with Cox Architecture) are currently at sales and marketing. Another residential tower, Paragon is set to be built down the road on the former Celtic Club site opposite Republic Tower. Further FK designed buildings are popping in Docklands, South Yarra, Port Melbourne, Ivanhoe and even as far as Box Hill.

As FK looks to the future as it embarks on an ownership restructure with the addition of seven directors, Urban.com.au asked the firm about its legacy and the future of high-rise design in Melbourne:

The FK team is driven by the desire to create an architecture which contributes meaningfully to both the built environment and the community.  It strives to enrich living opportunities and typologies within the city through the highest level of design quality.

High rise, high density residential architecture is recognised as a key platform of sustainable city living.  With increasing numbers of high rise buildings completed in Melbourne, purchasers, port authorities and public at large have become more sophisticated in their expectations and accordingly the levels of excellence and innovation will need to keep rising to new heights.

Fender Katsalidis reflects on the last 25 years while looking to the future with book launch
Australia 108. Images: Floodslicer

For a glimpse into the future of the FK's growing body of work refer to the below project listings from within Urban.com.au's database.

Fender Katsalidis: Working Architecture is published by Uro Publications and will be available for purchase from www.uropublications.com in late May 2017.

Lead image:  Melbourne Terrace – John Gollings

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir is one of the co-founders of Urban Melbourne. Laurence has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in both the private and public sector specialising in architecture, urban design and planning. He also has a keen interest in the built environment, cities and Star Wars.
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