Banksia is Melbourne Docklands most recent building, located on the northern waterfront of the docklands. On a 9 Ha strip of waterfront developed by the MAB Corporation over the last 23 years, the location offered a unique opportunity to bring further diversity and urban legibility to this important urban waterfront precinct. The site is located directly opposite the boat mooring and future ferry terminal and is aligned with the docklands retail precinct, Harbour Town, to the north. Between this new development and Harbour Town is a new public park.
The project presented the opportunity for a design that acted as a clear gateway on the waterfront and an important axial termination to the new public park. In essence, the project offered a series of complex and exciting urban relationships which the Architecture could respond to, many of which are rarely encountered within Melbourne.
MCR developed Banksia in a new parkland which was worked in collaboration with Aspect Studios and Stutterheim Anderson Landscape Architecture. The park, which comprised primarily of local Australian native planting, was raised half a level providing an opportunity to develop a 3M single level car-park basement for the Banksia apartments. This allowed the building to have a direct relationship with the park at ground level. The car-park entrance, at Docklands Drive, meant the precinct in and around the apartments was entirely a pedestrian zone.
This Australian urban scenario called for a distinct architectural response. The building is an extruded oval with the form being important in minimizing the effects of high winds on the public realm. The distinct facade was developed to recall the Australian Banksia flower, the bio-mimicry linking the building metaphorically to the public park in which it sits.
The building plan has a rotated core; this device allows all apartments to have both good aspects and natural daylight and ventilation. Of the 108 apartments over 18 levels, there is a large variety of apartment types from residences, sky homes and penthouse that range in size from 75sq.m. to 315sq.m. The ground level contains the foyer, an F&B outlet and building services. A large portion of the rooftop has been given over to the residents, providing a banksia lounge in the crown of the building with startling views of the docklands harbour and Melbourne skyline.
In many ways the building’s architectural language has been configured in a traditional manner reflecting the great traditional element of architecture, the column, with its base, its middle and its capital. Banksia has a robust colonnade at ground level, a unique repetitive middle and a distinct and playful top. This combination of elements and scales allows the building to be experience and enjoyed from a variety of vantage points, both nearby and distant, assisting it to add legibility to its important urban condition. The building’s facade is realized through a combination of boat technology, digital design and on-site craftsmanship.
Banksia is uniquely Australian, challenging the Internationalism of the precinct and attempts to remember the past landscape and dwellers of this area. Its echoing of the natural setting was developed throughout the design of the individual apartments, the foyers, and the unique lounge rooftop of the project.
The Australian character is realized in all scales throughout the building. The general plan has a spherical core, which allows all apartments to look back and appreciate Melbourne’s skyline. Meanwhile, echoing of the natural setting is developed throughout the apartments, foyer and rooftop. Finally, to further harmonize with the native landscape, the language of native timber finishing, the vibrant colours as well as the vivid banksia wall prints that clad the accentuated forms at a smaller scale.
A key design move in this project is the extensive use of different Australian timber. The intention was to metaphorically commemorate the native character of the indigenous landscape as well as contribute to the process of long term carbon sequestration of the atmosphere. Most vantage points of Banksia reveal the plethora of Australian timbers that were used. The high-end interior of Banksia arrays across apartment iterations utilizing indigenous timbers, such as Victorian Ash and Spotted Gum.
With a strong contemporary look on Australian luxury that responds beautifully to the Australian Landscape, four distinct interior styles of Organic, Expressive, Blackened Silver and White & Gold were created. Across all apartments there is a consistent level of generosity with unfettered sight lines combined with irregular shaped terraces there is an extended sense of space. The communal rooftop terrace that includes gardens and pools expresses a sense of pure escape. The interior brings a new Australian luxury living that doesn’t just mimic international styles or resorting to clichés of the outback.
To represent the Australian scene, lighting developed by young practices and relevant artworks curated for the interior were used to enhance this project. Banksia brings together Australia’s past landscape and its people and embraces the new of what Australia has to offer.
Furthermore, Banksia building implemented a range of ecological initiatives to achieve a Green Star rating of 5. The building has been planned with well-designed spaces and strategies that promote healthy and active living. The rooftop level and central park provide a wide range of exercise opportunities. The building also incorporates cyclist facilities and is designed to encourage Melbourne’s evolving transport system.
The building has been planned to employ passive design principles to minimise energy use requirements. Through fixed shading and high performance windows the facade addresses heat gain, heat loss and acoustic issues of this site. Furthermore, communal spaces use smart sensors to minimise lighting and air conditioning energy when these spaces are not occupied. The extensive use of different Australian timbers promotes and contributes to the process of long term carbon sequestration of the atmosphere.