In the current climate, many purchasers are buying into the apartment market out of necessity rather than choice. When your hand is forced into a particular housing typology, you may as well settle somewhere that is not only highly liveable, but also reminiscent of something that you’d find in a cartoon aquascape.
Cirqua Apartments by BKK Architects is a project that stands out – no small feat in the overcrowded multi-residential sector, which relies heavily on formulaic architectural codes to produce easy, low-cost, cookie-cutter products. Instead of succumb to the temptation to do things the easy way, BKK Architects decided to offer a new alternative: a series of apartments that, from the inside, strongly resemble those single-dwelling homes that are still ingrained in the collective memory, but which have become largely inaccessible to buyers below the upper strata of wealth.
Situated on a steeply sloping block in the suburban Melbourne pocket of Ivanhoe, Cirqua Apartments echoes local character through it brick-heavy material palette and square geometries. But that doesn’t mean it blends.
The home-style apartments are fitted with large-scale, ultra-rounded windows that kind of make you want to live in a fishbowl, or at least as a speck on the inside of a magnifying glass. Or, in the words of the architect:
“Six large oculi puncture the façade, introducing formal inventiveness and reducing the overall building mass to let it sit more comfortably within its single- and double-storey context. This is also assisted by the steeply sloping site, allowing the bulk of the building to sit below the line of sight when viewed from the road.”
Obviously, these “oculi” also mean that residents are privy to a flood of natural light, and 360-degree views of their leafy context. The architectural language established by these porthole-shaped windows – the most identifiable design features of the apartments – is continued throughout the internal spaces, where light fittings, door handles, and tiles replicate this sense of grown-up cartoonishness.
Apartments are placed at various depths and irregular heights, contributing to their already robust sense of character. According to the architect, this volumetric composition “[replicates] the rhythm of a suburban streetscape”. It also means that there is substantial room left over for a ‘front yard’ – a further nod to the vanishing Hills Hoist fantasy.
BKK Architects say that the apartments have been designed with a strong focus on accessibility and passive environmental control, which will allow residents the comfort associated with a family home. This speaks to the shift in the way apartments in Melbourne are being conceived - from an investor market to owner-occupier market, necessitating higher quality design outcomes.
Through the magnifying glass windows of this unusual project, the Australian dream of yore might just appear a little closer.