KUD’s latest venture is getting people talking, with its fusion of art and architecture in trendy inner-Melbourne suburb, Abbotsford.
2 Girls Building is a boutique building of 15 apartments and 15 two-storey lofts in Lithgow Street that boasts a DigiGlass façade, depicting Melbourne-based photographer Samantha Everton’s Masquerade artwork.
The artwork is combined with patterned pre-cast panels and a protruding lamp, that will double as a street light. The artwork continues internally as well, with the entry foyer and corridors lined with artworks, acting as a gallery space.
Architect Billy Kavellaris, director of KUD Architects, said that the façade artwork is firmly ingrained in the design of the building.
“We wanted to integrate Samantha’s art into the fabric of the building, not just create surface treatment,” said Mr Kavellaris.
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The pre-cast panels are made from concrete and have been designed to appear like the wallpaper used in Everton’s images.
Another feature that is designed to draw the viewer into the composition is the embossing of drawers, which are part of Everton’s living room scene, in concrete on the façade. The top level is clad in vitra panels that are printed with the image of velvet drapes.
Developer Peter Cahill, managing director of Domain Hill Property Group says buyers are focused on the project’s architectural and real estate integrity.
“I loved the idea of bringing art and architecture together. But I also know there’s a market for people looking for something quite different,” Mr Cahill told Sydney Morning Herald.
Innovative Urban Dwellings
Mr Cahill is delighted that buyers share his and Mr Kavellaris’ passion for bringing art into the streetscape and for creating innovative, highly liveable urban dwellings. More than half of the residences have sold, with negotiations advanced on several more.
“The fact that four of our buyers are from the real estate and property industry is a stunning endorsement of the design and its location. They recognise the property’s integrity and that their properties will be more likely to retain future saleability and have greater capital growth than investment-grade apartments.”
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Mr Kavellaris says that integrating art with architecture provides opportunities to reflect what is valued in Melbourne society.
“It’s a project with a strong narrative, and it’s exciting in that it isn’t just an object of investment, but so much more than that,” Mr Kavellaris said.
“We are not just sticking art on walls to promote sales. We’re creating a building that will not offer exciting and highly liveable dwellings but will also be a piece of urban theatre and create future heritage for the city. If you go to Paris, New York or Hong Kong, you find different architectural landscapes reflecting and interpreting societal values. This is what we are setting out to do in Melbourne.”
The interior of the building boasts 2.5 metre wide corridors to add to the gallery sense of light and space, with the walls featuring local paintings and photographers.
Ceilings of up to three metres and six lightwells infuse the building with light and space. The residences include balconies and/or rooftop decks. The building has a sophisticated yet raw gallery theme, incorporating exposed concrete ceilings with track lighting on the apartment level, and concrete walkways and timber floor treatments throughout.
As unique as the 2 Girls project is, it’s not the first time that facades have stolen the show. Notably in 2001, football personality Sam Newman engaged Cassandra Fahey to create his St Kilda home’s façade, emblazoned with the face of Pamela Anderson.
David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust also appeared in the plans for the side of a Prahran building in 2011. Developer Donald Musto said that the design was different to “Pamela House”
“It plays with the image in a streetscape sense,” Mr Musto said.
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“I am a Bowie fan, but not ridiculously – it was just an image that we thought spanned a wide generational group.”
Stonnington Council rejected the plan, but the decision was eventually overturned by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Another famous face gracing Melbourne’s skyline is William Barak, the Wurundjeri tribal leader and artist whose portrait spans the 32 floors of the Portrait building on the old Carlton United Brewery (CUB) site.
The building plans were welcomed by the Wurundjeri elders, saying that such a prominent tribute to Melbourne’s first inhabitants had been a long time coming. The building is still under construction.
Billy Kavellaris and KUD are also not strangers to adventurous façade design, grappling with the heritage overlay problem in Brunswick not with a photo, but a rendering of a terrace house on its façade. KUD’s Perforated House questions the nature of signature Melbourne style.
“’Why do we even think terrace houses are good?’ was our attitude,” says Kavellaris.
“They’re poorly planned, poorly built. Orientation is crap. They’re musty. Everyone guts them and redesigns them. They’re an English model that’s plonked in Australia. And that’s all bad as far as I’m concerned. Every decision we made in terms of what we did in the house – and ornamentation was important – was true to that critique.”
There is some concern though about the longevity of façadism, whether in time it will be like a tattoo that tires and cannot be removed.
“Think about what the tattoo is and why we do them,” Kavellaris responds.
“They’re symbols of things. They are more than just decoration. Most people have a story to tell as to why they have the tattoo – there’s a strong narrative behind them.”
The building is set to open at the end of the year at a launch that will include a survey exhibition of Samantha Everton’s work.
The location of the building is central, located in close proximity to the Yarra river and just a couple of kilometres from the city, and sport precinct.
Featured Image: Urban Melbourne