Petersen Kolumba bricks from Robertson's Building Products Pty Ltd were an important element of the materials palette carefully chosen by the architects to set a new benchmark in independent living architecture at Parkside Wollongong.

An independent living community located in Wollongong, Parkside at IRT Pioneer Place sets a new standard for future models of senior housing with their luxury apartments designed to replace a typical hospital setting with a lifestyle setting focussed around person-centred care.

Designed by Marchese Partners, Parkside consists of 75 independent living units in two- and three-bedroom configurations, built over eight storeys. The spectacular aesthetic competes with the highly functional layout and lifestyle-oriented amenities, setting a new benchmark in independent living architecture where residents are treated as customers, not patients. The design incorporates proper entry and arrival experiences, including concierge and hotel services, courtyards, abundant vegetation and high quality materials.

Marchese Partners design manager Axel Klein, explains, “Today’s Baby Boomers aren’t willing to go into the old aged care facilities. They’re expecting a new architecture of Independent Living Units. And all of the operators are now trying to move towards person-centred care, where the resident is the final customer.”

The architects have done ample justice to the design brief for Parkside at IRT Pioneer Place to create a vibrant independent living community, with strong links to Howard Court, the adjacent IRT facility, and Pioneer Park. The spectacular design with a well-considered materials palette perfectly references fundamental design principles and addresses what was a significant challenge in building a car park at ground level, rather than excavating it, at IRT’s request.

“To overcome this challenge, we created a really vibrant façade with an outstanding material, something completely different,” Klein comments.

Marchese Partners designed a panel sequence wrapping around the building’s three main facades on Kembla Street, Stewart Street and Pioneer Park, using handmade textured bricks in a repeating pattern, along with a Corten steel artwork by Mika Utzon Popov for even greater visual interest.

Looking for a brick in Roman proportions with a special materiality, Marchese Partners chose Petersen Kolumba.

“This high quality and sustainable material creates a sense of ‘home’ that’s recognisable by residents, and also links to the Howard Court building. And whilst familiar, the quality and slender proportions of the brick and its rich texture present a contemporary and inspirational design that will set a new benchmark for the area,” Klein explained.

A combination of Petersen K44, K47 and K49 bricks chosen from the outset enabled Popov to develop design concepts for his artwork to get IRT and Infinity approval.

Fortunately, IRT had a strong vision to set a new benchmark for independent living.

“When IRT saw the brick samples and the initial artwork concepts they were hooked. We knew we had to work hard to make sense of it financially, so we worked with the client and builder to adjust other areas so we could use Petersen bricks and the artwork,” says Klein.

Construction of the external façade took time and patience - two months were spent putting sample walls together before laying the brick and testing them in different areas to see how the light affected them.

“We pushed and pulled until we got it where we wanted it. It took time, but we had to get it right,” Klein says.

Top Knot Bricklaying skilfully laid the Petersen Kolumba bricks in a textured bond, using a black oxide in the mortar to achieve a darker finish. The bricklaying team did an amazing job, considering the complexity in the bond and the number of decorative panels.

“When you see how the light bounces, and you see the pattern and the different textures and how they connect with the panels that Mika put together, it’s an amazing result,” Klein says. Mika’s Corten steel panels have a rustic texture to them, and work incredibly well with the colour and texture of the Petersen bricks.

The internal façade uses white rendered sheets to create a striking contrast with the colour and texture of Petersen Kolumba bricks and Corten steel artwork. The white courtyards work well as a reference point for residents, anchoring their orientation, so that they are aware of their position from every point in the building.

Parkside at IRT Pioneer Place is a great example of how a strong vision, clever design, quality materials, skilled trades and absolute teamwork produces a standout, benchmark project.