For years now, the Docklands skyline has been dominated by cranes. Even in comparison to the development-heavy cities of Australia’s east coast, this area on Melbourne’s city fringe has experienced a boon of construction work. Its skyline is rapidly changing, and if Woods Bagot’s most recent project is anything to go by, it’s well and truly en route to carving out its own identity.
The most striking thing about Promenade Aqui – a residential development comprising two towers over a shared five-level podium – is its folded metallic façade. Described by Woods Bagot principal Peter Miglis as a “collection of two sculptured buildings that spiral from the water’s edge up to the city”, the exterior consists of alternating panels that rise sequentially from a pedestrian-level base.
According to Miglis, the brief was to create a medium-density residential development that would enliven the Docklands precinct – not just in the private and residential sphere, but also as the result of an activated public realm. No pressure.
“We interpreted that [brief] as being homes on the water, for people, through the collection of two sculptured buildings that spiral from the water’s edge up to the city,” says Miglis.
“We wanted to achieve a real connection to the precinct through a series of laneways in the public domain. As you come up into the buildings, the way we rotated the building forms allowed for uninterrupted views towards the water. Rotating the form enabled us to avoid overlooking issues for residents and neighbouring buildings. Collectively, the two buildings work together as a cohesive statement.”
As well as contributing a recognisable silhouette to the Docklands skyline, the façade of Promenade Aqui itself is a contributing factor in this activation of the public realm. The towers rise from the pedestrian canopy – around which are arranged a series of retail and hospitality spaces – effectively grounding the project a street level. Robust at their base, the towers systematically weave upwards to become more refined towards the crown.
“The proposed scheme respects the existing context, generating a site-wide design response [and] addressing neighbouring amenities of privacy and view,” says Miglis. “Collectively, the two buildings provide a cohesive built form approach. This is achieved through the scale and height [that] sequentially [rises] from near the water’s edge to its uppermost point on Docklands drive.
“The macro [scale] was about creating a silhouette of the buildings from the water to Docklands Drive. At the micro or street scale, the weave of the façade is intensified at the base, and combined with the introduction of timber, provides a sense of warmth at the ground plane.”
The materiality is intended to reflect the waterlogged history of the docks area. The exterior timber is an outward representation of this seafaring theme, which is exaggerated throughout the interiors. For instance, natural timber oak flooring and timber edge detailing is overlaid with a colour theme that is derived from nautical flags. As a finishing touch, floor-to-ceiling glazing incorporates water in a more literal sense, drinking in views of the surrounding harbour.
Promenade Aqui has achieve the Award of Excellence for achieving the highest level of environmental performance as set out by the government rating tool for Docklands.