The versatility of precast panels
After observing Melbourne's built form growth over the last decade or so certain trends become evident where progress is made (generally for the better) and the public realm is all the better for it. Think precast concrete panels and the first thing that comes to mind may well be the sheer edifices that many of Melbourne buildings employ where a common boundary is present. As ugly and uninviting as they are, these precast walls are necessary but also give a negative connotation, precast walls = poor design.
Well, that's not always the case. With improved technology and shifting mindsets, the humble precast panel has become far more integral to a building's design and appearance of late. The use of stylised precast panels has increased considerably owing to the ease and cost savings the medium offers.
One of the more interesting and recognisable buildings in recent years is Hive Apartments located in Carlton. Seemingly the topic of endless online articles, the building's external centrepiece is a precast panel that as seen below has the ability to capture the attention of any passerby. Euro Precast's website description reads as follows:
"An exterior feature of the apartment is the word “HIVE” which is graffiti inspired and made out of precast. The word Hive was pre made in the factory and then transported to site and installed before most of the renovations of the apartment took place. Concrete panel walls with unusual design and cut outs also complete this award winning apartment. A beautiful example of public art."
See below a selection of Melbourne's more interesting buildings that rely upon precast panels to make an architectural statement. It's by no means a definitive list but it does give an indication as to how the use of precast has evolved and where the future of the material lies; a more interesting, expressive building element that's far more engaging with the public realm. Click an image for a larger view.