Q&A: Shane Plazibat, Plazibat Architects


Shane Plazibat is the Principal and founder of Plazibat Architects

. He has more than 25 years’ experience designing award-winning projects such as New Farm riverfront apartment buildings Altura and Aquila, and Fig Tree Pocket Houses 1 and 2. Shane has many years’ experience designing major civic, hospitality and recreation projects in Hong Kong, London and Australia.

Shane is currently working on a contemporary riverfront home in Hawthorne, Brisbane for a family of four, and a 25-storey mixed use building in Newstead, Brisbane.

How does your design philosophy and particular approach to multi-residential, mixed use developments meet the objectives of your developer clients?
Our design approach revolves around creating modern developments that encapsulate sub-tropical design elements. Our aim is to set them apart in the market place and create individual building identities for our clients to market.

For example, one of the distinguishing design features of our buildings over the last ten years has been exterior shading that both protects inhabitants from the harsh sun and also gives the building character.

Recently, we have been working on two buildings for the same client that achieve this. The almost-complete Peninsula Apartments at Kangaroo Point, and the Skyring Apartments in Newstead, which have just started construction.

Both of these developments sold out prior to commencement of construction.
Developments around the country are becoming significantly taller. What influence do you think this will have on the city’s urban fabric?
Taller buildings tend to cluster together to create identifiable nodes within the city skyline and add greater visual variety. These buildings need to integrate with the immediate context and connect with the local socio and cultural conditions, especially at ground level, to contribute to making a sense of place.

Skyring ExteriorTaller buildings create great opportunities for developers who can appreciate and respond to this challenge. If you take an ordinary six storey development and compress the footprint of the design so the building goes up an additional 12–15 storeys leaving space at ground level on the site that can be used for retail and recreation, you not only create a better living environment, you also create a more marketable project that contributes to the overall richness of the city.

The outcome of taller developments should allow for a better ground plane/public realm scenarios that create a village-like feel. I believe there needs to be a balance between open space and density.

It is also beneficial for the location of taller buildings to coincide with public transport nodes. In Asia, developers do this well – maximising buildings around transport hubs to facilitate the residents’ need. We are starting to more of this happening here.
How can developers make sure that taller developments have wide appeal to the market?
I think these types of developments need to have a flexible unit plan that allows for a variety of units. While smaller apartments generally return strong yields for investors, a unit plan that caters to families opens up other markets.

For example, developments may need 3-bed units or 2-bed units with a flexible room that can convert into a third bedroom. Our approach involves working out how we can make the unit plan work for the residents first, and then fitting the form around that. Designing from the inside out.

One of the other keys to designing successful tall developments is including enough high quality outdoor space for the residents, and other places they can gather. Areas such as recreation podiums and pocket parks fit well within a compressed footprint and add a lot of value to the plan by creating vibrant community spaces and a village feel. Another hallmark of our projects is a generous external balcony space that can be used as an indoor/outdoor area.

Within units, access to fresh ventilation, higher ceilings, good natural light and privacy are also important in appealing to the market. We combine these features with high quality, fittings and finishes to give a sense of style that reflects the identity of the development as a whole.

Peninsula Apartments ExteriorHow do you balance the architectural necessity of risk-taking with the risk-averse nature of the construction industry?
We communicate as much as possible with our clients and consultants. We value everyone’s experiences on the team, and pool that knowledge on each project. It is essential for us to clarify the brief so we are all clear on the client’s objective, which is our foremost driver.

We also look at market trends and identify ways to innovate within the design that will be in line with the market. We also tend to test ideas on smaller scale projects before promoting them on larger scale ones. We are always directing what we learn from each project back into the rest of our work.
How do you design for developers needing to meet the challenge of fast changing social trends?
The plan needs to be flexible. I already mentioned that designing some units for families makes good sense, and I would say families moving into apartments in Brisbane is a growing trend. It used to be very much a lifestyle for singles and couples, and while that is still the same, there’s been a cultural change that it is making it more attractive to families, too.

Whilst our recent apartment designs cater largely for couples, dual occupants, or single person households, we try to create planning scenarios within our buildings that allow for flexibility of unit types. This allows for room modules to be added, to create apartments that families can occupy.

I also travel regularly around Australia, and in Europe and Asia to get a feel for emerging trends and new technologies so I can bring that into our work here in Brisbane. In particular, there’s a lot happening in Singapore at the moment, which we have researched. Of course, it has a not too dissimilar climate and lots of tall buildings!

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