From the architect:
The Switch Perth sees the retention, renovation and celebration of an early piece of Perth’s forgotten heritage integrated within a new typology of urban accommodation. The slender, 40-level, 5 Star GBCA certified co-living building anchors Wellington Street adjacent to the evolving City Link and Yagan Square precincts.
Proactive heritage listing, undertaken during the design phase, ensured the neglected 1880s townhouses along Queen Street and series of 1890s shops along Wellington Street received long overdue respect. The historical street hierarchy of the two key elevations and the resultant form expression is explored within the broader project design moves; balancing austerity and decoration through form and materiality.
Programmatically, the heritage building accommodates the public welcoming spaces. A compact café activates the street and lobby, while co-working and study spaces of various scales and intimacy populate the remaining spaces. Internally, the original wall alignments along with additional curated interpretive elements reflect scale and features of the former dwellings and shop bays. Externally, the street verandah is expressed simply, reflecting the lone blurry photo hinting at its former presence.
The accommodation levels rise above the heritage podium affording 483 bedrooms across 288 apartments. The apartment mix ensures a variety of occupancy typologies, from single and twin studios through to 4 and 5 bed cluster rooms.
The tower comprises a tonally graduated, austere precast concrete skin wrapped in decorative golden banding, reflecting the dichotomy of the heritage building’s two heritage façades. The façade is punctuated by narrow, vertically exaggerated, windows referencing the narrow first floor heritage windows and elongating the elevation reminiscent of early century Hugh Ferris illustrations.
The load bearing façade and compact 364 sqm floor plate, facilitates no internal columns or structure ensuring ease of future reconfiguration. The mass of the concrete box form inherently resists high winds and as such negates the need for additional tuned mass dampening.
The resident exclusive spaces are located at the base and summit of the tower form. The lower facilities include a gym, lounge, kitchen and shared laundry atop the heritage form. The roof includes a function lounge adjacent to twin roof terraces with outstanding 40th floor views.
The internal planning works to promote a positive headspace environment with residents passing through communal spaces wherever possible for passive interaction opportunities. The laundry is elevated from the dark basement to be co-located with the communal kitchen and lounge, encouraging incidental meetings and conversation.
Whilst initially designed as PBSA, concerns around the availability of students at the height of Covid induced border closures, the classification was broadened to Co-Living. This foresight proved invaluable as practical completion was realised during an affordability crisis with a severe lack of inner-city accommodation. Currently at 100 percent occupancy, a diverse cohort now calls The Switch Perth home, with 90 percent of residents aged between 18 to 35 and the most senior resident of 71 years.
The Switch demonstrates that close and ongoing collaboration between the builder, consultant team and approving authority results in a successful outcome not just for the end users but City more broadly.