Inspired by the classical proportions of the nearby Fitzroy Town Hall, Freadman White and Marcello Donati of Anon Studio have designed Whitlam Place, a residential building that offers a new way of living in Melbourne.
“We have taken cues from the proportions and height of the classical stone town hall, ensuring that the parapet of the new four-storey building isn’t taller than the town hall’s tower,” explains architect Michael White of Freadman White. “The distinctive green and bronze tones of the copper oxide finish applied to the concrete exterior of the building forms a dynamic backdrop to the neighbouring park, with many of the dwellings enjoying views into the silvery treetops.”
The penthouse apartment is “the glass jewel on top of the brutalist base,” with curved glazing wrapping around a private rooftop courtyard facing south to the park. When the sliding doors are open, this outdoor space expands the already generously sized living area. Within this open-planned space, zones are defined by the semicircular shape of the courtyard that cuts into the otherwise rectangular plan, where each piece of furniture is nicely held. This planning is reminiscent of a traditional courtyard house, with a centralized focus point.
Priority is given to these main public areas of the home and the private sleeping and bathing spaces are intentionally modest in size. A three-level light shaft within the building provides natural light and ventilation to the second bedroom and both bathrooms.
The two-bedroom penthouse has a striking spatial energy, with the colored oculus skylight giving the impression of a James Turrell artwork as the light changes its shade from aubergine to apricot throughout the day. Italian design influence and sensibilities are felt in the pink and green terrazzo flooring, playful Scarpa-esque detailing and the character of Marcello’s eclectic furniture. Collectively, Freadman White really love the curiosities of things. There are moments around the building that you might say, ‘Why would you do that?’ But the studio really enjoy those moments.
An example of this is the way the marble kitchen splashback wraps around the wall toward the bedroom. Trades have been used for more than one application – for example, the tiler who developed the Australiana-inspired pink and green terrazzo patterns with Freadman White and Anon Studio also made the tiled table surfaces.
The building’s architecture strongly defines the interior design, which was important to all collaborators on the project. A feature of both the exterior and interior architecture is the pop-out windows that choreograph a particular experience of the city skyline view. Externally these brass-framed windows give depth and texture to the facade and internally the circulation is curated toward the deep and angled portal to accentuate the angled perspective.
Each of the eleven apartments has a different personality, suiting the needs of the variety of occupants. Marcello’s sister, her partner and young baby live next door in a slightly more restrained and rectilinear two-bedroom apartment. With the majority of the owner-occupiers being downsizers looking for a lifestyle of convenience, floor plans have been modified to suit favourite furniture pieces, including a baby grand piano.