With a scarcity of prime building sites in our large cities, apartment buildings are on the increase.
But look around the new projects and it’s easy to see the low-cost cookie-cutter development is becoming a thing of the past. Modern apartment design is much more people focused – today it’s all about space and light, and bringing a human scale to apartment buildings.
Architect Colin Leuschke of Leuschke Group says it is also about innovation – exploring new technology and materials that will help achieve these objectives.
The new Balfour apartment building, which was developed by New Sun Company with Leuschke Group architects Colin and Lindy Leuschke, epitomises the new approach to multi-unit architecture.
“Apartment buildings can look very regular and ordinary, so it is essential to introduce detail to the exterior,” Colin Leuschke says. “But this needs to be in proportion to the size of the structure. To break down the scale of this large building, for example, we introduced massive three-storey screens that look a little like Corten steel. They are made from laser-cut powdercoated aluminium that has been painted to resemble timber.”
Leuschke describes the screens as modern-day shutters.
“The screens provide privacy for the master bedrooms, but they can be folded back. They help to animate the exterior of the building, so it is never static. From the inside they look like timber, but they are completely low maintenance, which is essential for an apartment.”
The building also features a series of pleated vertical aluminium panels that run the full height of the building, concealing service rooms in the apartments.
Another point of difference in the design is the provision of two central cores.
“Rather than have a single core with long corridors and walkways leading to the apartments, we opted to provide two cores, each serving apartments on both sides. So the development is essentially two buildings positioned side by side,” says Leuschke. “These cores receive plenty of natural light from full-height windows on two sides. And they each feature a wide central staircase – we hope to encourage residents to use the stairs rather than the lift. There are spectacular views from the core, and in this location, many of the residents will be walking to work, shops and cafés.”
Leuschke says the developer wanted the building to exude quality, and this is evident throughout the building.
“This is exactly the sort of apartment building encouraged by the city planners. It’s a classic design where nothing has been compromised. Even in the smaller apartments, the same attention has been paid to design detail as in the four penthouses, and the same high-quality materials have been used. This ensures that all the apartments will appeal to the same type of people – the socialisation aspect is a critical element of apartment planning today.”
Colin Leuschke says no two apartments are exactly the same. Even if they have a fairly similar layout, they have different views and the design detail varies.
“Another less common feature that we introduced was a common pathway at ground level – it is possible to navigate right around the outside of the property, which also helps to retain a human scale to the development.”
All the apartments are positioned to maximise sunlight and views. The penthouses on the top floor are set back from the edges of the building, so each residence has a large entertaining terrace with space for a barbecue and outdoor seating.