Architects: Luigi Rosselli Architects
Project: Triplex Apartments
Project Architect: Edward Birch
Interior Designer: Romaine Alwill
Location: Bellevue Hill, Sydney NSW, Australia
Photography: Prue Ruscoe, Edward Birch
Description by architect: It’s not often that a council constraint is as welcome as Woollahra Council’s residential apartment building height code, which forces all units built on sloping sites such as Bellevue Hill to step and follow the contours of the land. Terraced apartments are not a new building type; the style began with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and was later taken up by the first Modernists such as Richard Neutra in Los Angeles, Robert Mallet-Stevens in Paris, and here in Sydney with the Wyldefel Gardens at Potts Point.
These recently completed stepped apartments are endowed with large terraces and private gardens ideal for those who wish to downsize from a suburban house. These terraces are constructed with robust concrete edge beams to provide substantial awning structures. The concrete is left exposed and horizontally fluted to provide a robust texture.
Triplex Apartments Project architect, Edward Birch collaborated seamlessly with a team of trusted consultants and contractors including: landscape architect, William Dangar, interior designer, Romaine Alwill of Alwill Interiors, structural engineer, Geoff Ninnes Fong & Partners, one of Sydney’s best builders, GNC Quality and skilled joiner, Stiven Mihajlovic of Sydney Joinery, to achieve the highest levels design and finishes.
Often, residential flats are designed with a rubber stamp; a repetition of plans, details and materials; the fruits of lazy architects or developers and their ovine 🐑 psychology. However, terraced apartments need individual layouts to suit the topography and the different arrival points of the vertical lift circulation. Further, these three apartments have been personalised with different finishes and interior design by Romaine Alwill.
From the street, the appearance of the apartment block is of a single storey residence to maintain the existing residential pattern of the street and to soften the impact of the recent rezoning of the area for residential flats. This strategy helped to achieve supportive Council approval of the development.
One would not suspect that three residences hide behind the sandstone wall of this hillside road on the slopes of Double Bay. When the aluminium gates are buzzed open one can see the penthouse to the right and just in front the steps leading to the other two units. The sunlit tower is the lift shaft that vertically links all three terraced apartments, like a pin holding a butterfly specimen.
The penthouse is a garden apartment with a trinity of robust masonry and concrete volumes, converging towards the front door. A living room with double height windows and a smaller study opening links around the central entry door. A chequerboard pattern of aluminum shade screens and glass balance the proportions. A fireplace can be seen through the opening as a welcoming symbol of domesticity.
The shutters and gates are constructed with an off-the-shelf aluminium screen system ( Hi-Light Industries ‘T Bar’ grating ) Will Dangar’s young landscaping will soon add privacy to the elevated front garden. A garage built under the garden is out-of-sight-out-of-mind.
Curving and bending the front elevation was necessary to make these windows more private and screen off the neighbours, as well as to embrace the visitors at the front door. This is a design principle Luigi Rosselli learned from his mentor, Romaldo Giurgola, who insisted that one should provide open armed buildings that welcome you at their entry point. The forecourt of Parliament House in Canberra, with its two outstretched ramps to each side, is perhaps the most high profile example of Giurgola’s philosophy. This openness and inclusiveness is one of the components of humanist architecture.
The four terraces stretch towards the northwest corner where the sun bathes the site and the city skyline views can be seen. A tensile shade cloth stretches across each of the triangular awning frames. The awnings provide, light, shade, privacy and cover to each terrace. The awning at the top level was removed by the Council’s bad habit of tampering with carefully conceived designs.