Maple Hawthorn: interview with ANGLE's Lachie Gibson and ICD Property's Sal Quah

Maple Hawthorn: interview with ANGLE's Lachie Gibson and ICD Property's Sal Quah
Maple Exterior. © ANGLE
Laurence DragomirApril 4, 2015 recently caught up with ICD Property's Director of Operations and Development Manager, Sal Quah, along with ANGLE Director Lachie Gibson just prior to the official launch of the Maple HAWTHORN display suite.

Having visited a number of display suites over the years, I can safely say that the Maple display is in the upper echelon. Sal took me through the display suite explaining the rationale behind the interiors, the layout of the apartments and the flexibility they offer to residents to really customize the apartment to suit their needs, be they single, married or with a family.

Laurence Dragomir: How did ANGLE come to be involved with the project? ICD owned the site for a number of years.

Sal Quah: The last couple of years we've been focusing on some of our larger projects and the smaller ones like Maple were just sitting there so we gauged buyer interest but also interest from development partners and ANGLE was one of the names put forward to us. We were really impressed by ANGLE and they actually reminded us a lot of ICD Property when we started in Melbourne. The research they undertook and the final presentation they put together for the project was far beyond anything we had expected. In the end it became a really easy decision.

Lachie Gibson: We've really enjoyed working with ICD Property, the whole team there is really young and passionate.

SQ: There's a real synergy that's developed between us.

LG: We went out to dinner with all the guys and we all pretty much hit it off straight away. It's been really smooth sailing all the way through on the project which isn't always the case.

LD: ICD already had the project in the works when you were marketing Eq Tower?

SQ: We had You and I and this site before we started on Eq Tower. Eq pretty much took up all of our resources.

LD: How did the name Maple come about?

LG: The inspiration was the maple tree on level 3. We wanted something that was really different and unique. HAWTHORN's generally really known for being a green, leafy suburb so the maple tree as a feature was something we hadn't seen done here in Australia, particularly on a project of this size. It makes the corner of the building a real feature so essentially it was really about choosing what that tree was going to be. We love maple trees - my old man is actually a big fan of maple trees - but it also ties in really well with the architecture and there's a bit of Japanese inspiration in there.

LD: It's interesting that the maple tree idea came first and that as a result it has essentially become the identity for the building.

LG: It was really organic wasn't it Sal?

SQ: Yes, very spontaneous.

LG: In the end it seemed pretty obvious - why don't we just call it Maple? We thought that's not a bad idea, but let's sit on it and explore other options and then just came back to that. What's pretty cool as well is that it will change colour all year round. In summer it will be green and provide protection for these guys, but then come autumn it will turn red and in winter it'll let light in.

It makes for a really dynamic building - all these screens are sliding, they feather so as you move around the building, it changes appearance. The rationale I suppose in distinguishing the lower levels to the upper levels - is really about creating two parts to the building. The 'podium' levels are really guarded - it's a busy corner so the residents need privacy whereas on the upper levels, you're raised up and setback from the street so it's a lot more open and privacy is not as much of an issue.

LD: I think what's great is the residents have their privacy but being such a prominent corner the podium levels still have an active and animated facade unlike for instance above ground car parks. I was saying to Sal earlier, I really like how the balcony deflects inwards to embrace the maple tree.

LG: There was a fair bit of work involved in getting the detailing right for that but it's a pretty cool feature, especially for the people who will own the apartments around it.These are million dollar apartments up there and everyone gets the benefit of the canopy and its coverage.

LD: What's been interesting - and Sal and I were discussing this earlier - is the standard and quality of apartment buildings of this size and scale, particularly in the inner city, has gone up in the last couple of years. Looking at some of the finished and joinery etc. it seems quite apparent to me that with a development such as this you're really targeting that owner-occupier market. Would that be right?

LG: I would say that Melbourne is definitely a world leader in this space. We do a lot of creative marketing through another business called Earl Street and we were up in Sydney yesterday with some clients and you see the quality of the architecture up there and it's not even close to what we have here in Melbourne, which is probably 5 years ahead, and I don't know if Sydney will ever catch up. I think its born out of not only being competitive but the creative industry in Melbourne's so strong and thriving; in hospitality, in fashion etc. I think we're streets ahead.

SQ: I think it's also the culture created through migration and intellectuals bringing these really global ideas and way of thinking.

LG: That's a really good point. Plus the size of the stock's another one as well - you've sort of picked up on the owner occupier focus.

LD: Sal took me through the floor plans earlier and I noticed the one bedders are a decent size. They were about 54sqm from memory?

LG: The smallest apartments start from 51sqm which is pretty rare these days. But we made a real push for that.

LD: I've had a look over the layouts and I think they're great - all the apartments seem really well laid out, all bedrooms receive natural light and ventilation.

LG: The project threw up some really interesting challenges and I suppose came up with some responses that were really pushing the boundaries in that we hadn't really seen layouts like that. Particularly these two bedders there's no saddlebacks, no borrowed light which we're really proud of but getting these two bedrooms out onto the facade works really well.

A) You get a lot of natural light to all your rooms B) you get more privacy to your living area and C) you get a deck with 3 different interfaces and allows for a much more square shape which makes it really usable.

On the lower levels you can close the screens and open up the bedroom doors or the living area and still have that level of privacy. We've never really seen a floor plan like this so we took a bit of a risk with it.

LD: Is there scope for ANGLE to move on to larger projects? And will we be seeing more ICD and ANGLE joint projects in the future?

LG: I think the answer to both questions is definitely. We've really enjoyed working with ICD and look forward to any future opportunities to do so.

SQ: The feeling from ICD is mutual.

LD: Lachie and Sal, thank you both for your time.

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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