TRENDS International edition


Boxing Clever

TRENDS International Edition, 2001

Nestled amongst historic downtown buildings, the modernist Box apartments use principles of scale, honesty and function to find their own urban niche.

Creating a contemporary apartment complex that sits well within a traditional architectural environment can be a tricky task. Add space limitations and an awareness of the pedestrian viewpoint and the job becomes even more problematic.

In the case of the modern Box apartment complex, perched atop a 1920s historic building, scale and honesty were integral elements of its distinctive profile. The project’s architect, Jean-mic Perrine of Perrine and Birch, says that the design’s form closely follows its function. “The building’s stepped-back shape allows it to be viewed in its entirety from a comfortable distance,” says Perrine. “At the same time, closer pedestrian traffic and shopfronts are not overshadowed by it.”

Scale and function affected the profile in another way too. With the construction space only 13m wide, the box-shaped, composite design allowed for maximum internal floor space for each apartment.

“The building’s aesthetic lines and compartmentalised functionality are remi- niscent of a Japanese shu-shi lunchbox,” Perrine says.

There are 30 apartments in the space, which also includes a cocktail bar, a bistro, 

lap swimming pool, a gymnasium and a carpark. The Box’s careful layout within a limited space allows for four apartments on each floor, with four larger penthouses occupying the top two floors.

“In a traditional suburban home only 30% of the floorplan might be allocated to living areas,” says Perrine. “Here we have turned this ratio on its ear – dedicating over 60% percent of the layout to living and dining areas with around 30% reserved for bedrooms and bathrooms.”

Space-hungry suburban luxuries such as an expansive hall were replaced with small entry alcoves to each bedroom to screen them from the central living areas.

From the entrance in the building below, with its scrubbed silica bricks and exposed pipework, honesty of materials was central to the project’s design. This   is carried through in the terrazzo floors and hard-wearing surfaces of the apartments above.

“Partof  the urban consideration is building smarter for closer living proximities,”  says Perrine. “Allthe Box apartments feature timber-frame, solid core doors and sound-proof plasterboard interior walls.”

Pre-cast concrete floors run through- out the apartments. When polished they have a grey/black industrialsurface.  This industrial look is also reflected in the kitchens’ benchtops, each pressed from a single sheet of stainless steel and in the cabinetry, set on castors.

In an enclosed living space, issues such as ventilation need careful planning,  saysPerrine.  Thekitchensin the apartments all have their own exhaust emission ducts, thus avoiding the sharing of odours between neighbours that can happen with a common exhaust system.

“The creation of these apartments came about as a collaboration between tough materials, honest design and a need for strong ergonomic solutions,” says Perrine. “The feedback on the complex has been extremely positive. As an architect, there is no greater reward than the occupiers appreciating their environment for what it was intended to represent.”