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Architects strive for a bolder design for Brisbane
Leading Brisbane architect Liam Proberts stands on the land of the Turrbal and Yuggera people at South Bank and contemplates the emergence of a new Brisbanism for the inner city.
Thirty-two years ago on the site, Brisbane made its first bold steps toward creating its own identity on the world stage when it transformed South Bank from an industrial zone into an international playground for World Expo 88.
Today cranes hover over the north bank of the Brisbane River where billions of dollars are being funnelled into the Queens Wharf precinct, joining Howard Smith Wharves, Northshore Hamilton, and the redevelopment of the Eagle Street Pier in its reclamation of Brisbane as the ‘River City’.
Inner-city architects have spent much of this year developing a deeper understanding of what ‘place’ means to residents in the inner city, and with the prestige property market continuing to do well, they say now is the time for residential developments to be bold and brave, to design apartments that are adaptable so people can work from home and age in place, offer amenities to create a lifestyle precinct at home, and be built in harmony with the natural environment.
“Being bold and brave means understanding what we have here, which is a fantastic climate and lifestyle and being bold and confident enough to embrace that and to create our own character,” Mr Proberts said.
“We need to own our design culture and social culture. There’s a Brisbanism that is emerging as we put landscape, climate and design into our projects in these spaces. We’ve borrowed from other places and cultures, now we’re mature enough to develop a design culture of our own.”
Rooftop gardens almost unheard of 20 years ago are now receiving council support and are a large part of the new look for inner-city residential developments, along with an increased demand for onsite wellness facilities and apartments that can easily adapt to allow residents to work or study from home.
Fellow award-winning architect Joe Adsett views this emerging Brisbanism as designing healthy buildings that embrace wellness in their structure and amenities.
“We have a golden opportunity here with all of this wealth and all these conversations about wellness, now is the time to deliver on that. I think Brisbane City Council is going a long way toward this. Our projects have been embraced, even if they have been controversial at times.”
He said Brisbane’s natural environment also needs to play a bigger role in the design of new apartments.
“Brisbanism is our landscaped buildings, buildings made of the materials ideally that are of the place itself. The colours and the stones pulled from the earth around it,” Mr Adsett said.
“We are right along the Granite Belt, we also have these incredibly local sandstones, the beautiful Australian hardwood timbers, even the native flora and fauna growing up our buildings. Forget using introduced species when we’ve got hardy plants that don’t require a lot of water and create cities that look like the environments that they are replacing.”
Twohill and James architect Emma James said architects have developed a unique Brisbane language to allow them to curate views and connect with the outdoors while managing the horizontal western sun in the subtropics, which is a constant challenge for architects.
“As architects we all talk about strategies for different projects to overcome these challenges and there’s a language that emerges from those challenges,” Ms James said.
“We often talk about using an outdoor room as a buffer, so you try to protect the interior spaces using that additional room,” she said.
“Then there’s the Brisbane response of using a lot of screening, timber screens, vertical, horizontal, sliding screens so you can adapt
City living special the architects
Welcome to the fourth and final instalment of our series on the future of inner-city development. This week we speak to Queensland’s leading architects about the avant-garde designs and innovation of Brisbane’s housing in the future
those spaces on the edge of a building to make them more habitable at certain times.
“And then you might plan different spaces in the house to be occupied at different times of the day and when it’s too hot, there’s another spot you can occupy.”
Ferro Chow Architecture managing director Jared Chow said buyers in all price brackets have been proactively seeking inner-city homes with wellness, convenience, good design and adaptability at their heart, and this would drive innovation from the richest penthouse to the most accessible social housing project, while limiting the future of cookie-cutter apartment projects that offer minimal amenities and no architecture.
“What we do see on trend is clients being more aware and promoting wellness for the built environment, and this is taking ESD (Ecologically Sustainable Development) principles to the next level,” Mr Chow said. “We’ve always been turning this way but it has accelerated even further in recent times.
“So behind the four walls of the home there are offerings that encourage sustainable design, and where there’s space to offer the opportunity to work some days from home.”
He said such homes replace recirculating rangehoods over the kitchen with centralised exhaust systems. Cross ventilation and heat mitigation is supported through design principles such as deeper balconies. And rain barriers between interior and exterior spaces are made easier to navigate to allow for a seamless flow between spaces.
“Inner-city apartments need to provide an adaptable offering to the market,” Mr Chow said. “So you can turn spaces around and repurpose them if needed so they can be for able-bodied people and physically challenged people as well.”
Put a pencil in Ms James’s hand and she’ll draw you a home that will outsmart the harshest summer, adding to the diverse architectural language of Brisbane’s inner-city for years to come.
Ask her about the legacy that architects are leaving on the city skyline, and Ms James says that is for the future to judge.
“We’re embedded in the middle of it,” she said. “We are still being influenced by what other people are doing. Ask me in 20 years (about the Brisbanism that is being developed here). Someone will do a PhD on it and we’ll thank them for putting it into words and look back and realise that’s what we were all doing.
Mr Adsett says future generations will benefit from the unprecedented opportunities that large-scale projects under construction in the inner city will provide.
“It’s a very exciting time to live in a growing city and be part of building that fabric that will become the future home of our children,” he said.
“And legacy is something we’ve been talking about in our practice and not just building buildings for the sake of it, not just construction and not just architecture but how do you leave a legacy on the built environment. What does that mean? It’s a big talking point. This year has been a time for reflection and a time to take action and go for it. It’s been accelerated by this thing called COVID-19.”