An interesting planning application is currently before Melbourne City Council with an apartment development intended for 152-154 Queensberry Street, Carlton. Championed by Queensberry St Pty Ltd, the complex lends its name from the genus of tree species native to northern Hemisphere climbs, a species that you and I would commonly call plane trees, which are evident throughout Melbourne.
Central to the towers design is an angular mesh and glass finish applied to the southern facade, which mimics plane trees found nearby. Full credit to Metaxas Architects for applying this unique exterior to the towers most prominent aspect. Gone are the typical horizontal bands and/or precast panels that define so many nearby buildings, in their place is a facade that according to the planning application is "Perforated at varying levels to provide a rich composition as an outlook. In addition the colours of the screen vary in a reference to the colours of the leaves in both bloom and in decomposed states."
In isolation the design is clever and unique, yet when inserted among existing built form Platanus is a breath of fresh air. This stretch of Swanston Street is heavy with student accomodation which traditionally has been devoid of any architectural merit and there is no greater example than 528 Swanston Street, which immediately abuts the western boundary of this development proposal. 528 Swanston Street is multi-coloured affront to the senses and is visually pathetic, yet with the insertion of Platanus, Upper House and 139-155 Queensberry Street the dearth of quality architecture is slowly being addressed.
The northern aspect of Platanus employs an inverted podium to maintain appropriate separation to an existing five level apartment development. The initial five levels are set back from the site boundary and progressively move outwards to the boundary thereafter which in essence delivers an overhung tower form above. This in turn provides separation of between 5.4 metres and 10.7 metres to the adjoining apartment complex.
Within the 14 level building are 79 apartments, a 194 sqm basement office space, 208 sqm ground floor retail space, parking for 8 vehicles and 32 bicycles. Apartment offerings include one bedroom, one + study and two bedrooms where total dwelling square metreage (including terraces) varies between 44 sqm and 79 sqm. Atop the building is the 'cubby house', a communal facility which offers an enclosed dining and lounge area, rooftop terrace and barbecue facilities.
The developments eastern facade is predominantly precast panels which points toward and allows for equitable development of the adjoining property. With a number of other developments along the Swanston-Queensberry axis at construction or early stages of planning, the quality and variety of built form through the area will increase markedly... and Platinus should hold its own amongst them comfortably.