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    Canberra architect designs city’s next ‘icon’

    Nicholas Rider

    A high-rise multi-tower development proposed for the town of Gungahlin in the ACT fuels growing excitement surrounding the town’s future.

    Designed by Nathan Gibson Judd Architect, the proposal will add two 26-storey towers and a smaller eight-storey building to the suburb during a period of increased public infrastructure spending and private sector development.

    “Gungahlin town centre already has a throbbing beating economic heart, the arrival of light rail however will be a game changer,” says Nathan Judd NGJA director.

    “Gungahlin is at a tipping point, currently in a before moment - the future Gungahlin will be very different with the arrival of this major piece of infrastructure - Gungahlin is the new Canberra destination to be imagined.”

    Riding this wave of optimism, NGJA was challenged by the developer to create a new Canberra icon for the site, one that creates a “destination and expresses optimism about the future Gungahlin town centre.”

    “We have sought to provide a destination, a new piece of the puzzle that will draw people to Gungahlin,” says Judd.

    And a destination is what the public will receive should ‘Air Towers’ get a development permit from council.

    NGJ_Towers_BirdsEye.jpg
    NGJ_Towers_StreetView.jpg

    As Judd explains, the development has been imagined as a “tripartite” of three slender buildings arranged in an inverted layout to traditional mixed-use buildings. The two taller towers are connected by a glazed sky bridge at their summit which will be the building’s ‘podium’ and house its major commercial attractions. 

    Accessed from an expressed glass lift on Swain street, this sky bridge will provide a sky park, gym and sauna, conference facility and two restaurants for use by the public, says Judd.  

    “This space will celebrate the Gungahlin context and provide an element of life and vitality atop the building.”

    “We imagine weddings, romantic dinners and industry award events held atop this new beacon element.”

    While Air Towers will defy the rule of thumb for mixed-use development by placing the major commercial attraction at the tower’s summit rather than its ground floor, Judd says this arrangement will benefit rather than exclude the public.

    “This eschews the current model of multi storey parking podiums wrapped with a veneer of commercial at the lower levels of buildings effectively sterilising the streetscape,” says Judd.

    NGJ_Towers_Courtyard-2.jpg

    “We want the life in the buildings to be read and connected to the street and to offer the community a porosity to the site that allows people to incidentally experience the development, function as a pause point and enhance the commercial uses located at ground floor.”

    REDUCED APARTMENTS BETTER VIEWS

    Judd says that while skinny floorplates denote reduced apartment numbers, they do benefit more controlled orientation.

    “These 'pencil towers’ have reduced the number of apartments per floor, [but have provided] northern orientation, floor to ceiling glazing and an emphasis on the exploitation of spectacular landscape views,” he says.  

    Air Towers will have around 300 apartments consisting of mostly one and two-bedrooms, alongside a mix of three-bedroom, four bedroom and studio units.

    INVOLVING THE COMMUNITY

    The local community has been engaged during the project through council and community meetings, as well as stakeholders and authority engagement. A competition to name the development was a more innovative approach in involving the public. 

    “It has been novel and positive to have the project named by the public,” says Judd.

    “And Air Towers is a fitting name.”

    The project is anticipated to be lodged for approval in about a months’ time. 

    Images: Nathan Gibson Judd Architect

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