Image Credit : Rory Gardiner Timothy Kaye Lillie Thompson




Project Overview

Set on the remarkable escarpment edge of the Birrarung river and Yarra Bend Park, Fenwick endeavours to balance density with porosity, allowing connections to the distant landscape to be drawn deep into the building and through the site to the street.

Three individual pavilions rather than a much larger whole, open up and reframe and hold these connections through the site; the project’s centre becoming a corridor to the valley beyond.
The pavilions, linked by a common basement, push back into the hill, lowering the scale at the street to that of the residential neighbours, increasing in height as they absorb the terrain falling towards the escarpment.

Landscaping has set in motion a desire for the building to become absorbed into the gardens and broader vistas, an apparent ruin, filled with hidden life.

Project Commissioner


Project Creator

Edition Office


Aaron Roberts
Kim bridgland
Karl Buck
Flack Studio
Eckersley Garden Architecture
Northrop Consulting Engineers

Project Brief

The project is located on a remarkable edge of the Birrarung river adjacent to Yarra Bend Park with northern vistas to the valley beyond. Perched on the edge of the escarpment with immediate views along the river as potent as the expansive horizon which unfolds to the north the site allows unencumbered connections to landscape which are rare this close to the city. The site also sits adjacent to an area of Studley Park which has a high concentration of well-preserved 50’s and 60’s post-war houses, athletically meandering across the sloping sites adjacent to the river.

The site demands these connection to be drawn deep into the plan and through the site to the street, allowing this link to the distant vista to remain part of the public realm.

Balancing density with visual porosity was critical to maintain this linkage.
Three visually independent pavilions rather than a larger whole could allow a balance of similar scaled forms with the neighbouring houses while connecting to more immediate greenspaces surrounding them. These pavilions also reframe and hold views through the site, rather than simply seeing past it’s edges.

The need to drop and anchor into the site to absorb the basement meant the building would appear embedded to site. Mass and scale were feathered by shifting and rotating slightly, each floor plate, bringing movement to shear walls. Copper screening which will weather and age gracefully allowed a level of delicacy to an otherwise purposefully robust textured pre-cast concrete construction.

Project Innovation/Need

With a collaborative approach to landscape design, Eckersley’s Garden Architecture have set in motion a mutual desire for the building to become absorbed into the landscape, over time becoming a beautiful, apparent ruin, filled with hidden life.

While living within and connected to landscape was an important driver, so too was internal delight – light filled private spaces full of comfort and detail. Flack studio brought an intuitive response to landscape and context into the interiors, evoking warmth and calm, with moments of dramatic nuance. Material tactility and evolving patina, displaying signs and patterns of life, registered with the weathering of the copper screens and the gradual maturation of the surrounding gardens. A sense of joy in navigation was important, junctions, thresholds and the associated interplay of materiality were carefully crafted and assembled.

Located at a sharp bend in the street, the split between pavilions occurs at the fulcrum, as one pivots past the site. The pavilions, linked by a common basement, push back into the hill, lowering the scale at the street to that of the residential neighbours, increasing in height as they absorb the terrain falling towards the escarpment.

Living spaces open to the north, the river and the valley, planned such that circulatory paths link to this space, drawing the distant landscape deep into the plan, with bedrooms and ancillary spaces opening to the green spaces between pavilions, viewed through a copper mesh privacy veil.

Design Challenge

The brief required the creation of nine new dwellings on a site that previously provided for one. Within a location of immense environmental and cultural value, the design sought to erode the potential mass of a single large volume and instead allow the creation of three distinct forms upon the site that each yield to the domesticate patterns and scale of the existing streetscape. Working alongside the natural fall of ground across the site, the buildings appear modest in scale in both height but also perceived mass. Each pavilion is formed as a wedge, meeting together at their narrowest points in a moment of architectural exuberance that extend away from the densely planted centre allowing clear visible sightlines between and through to the horizon beyond.

The location of this project is of significant natural and contemporary cultural value both in its River edge ecology and in the architectural heritage. Great care was taken to ensure during the design process to ensure the project felt balanced in its size and scale to the neighbouring single homes, and that sightlines to the river through verdant gardens beds and canopy trees were provided.


There are many dimensions to sustainability, tell us your approach. It might have been local sourcing, reusing materials, using new materials, having a lower carbon foot print or being economically sustainable. All count and are important.

Naturally resilient materials were utilised throughout the project to ensure that the building would age and weather gracefully for decades to come with minimal maintenance while revealing the natural patina of passing time and of use. The project was sited carefully to respect the natural daylighting to the adjacent neighbours, and to ensure maximum exposures of northern sun to all living spaces. Thermal mass was heavily utilised within the project to ensure a stable internal temperature and to mitigate outside traffic noise. Ceiling fans were installed to mitigate the need for use of Air conditioning. All apartments were designed to utilise significant cross flow ventilations to enable passive cooling. West and East facing windows are shading with perforated copper screens to mitigate high solar heat gain form direct sun exposure, while the northern glazing is shaded with awnings that shelter the interiors from high summer sun while allowing the penetrating warmth of low winter sunshine.

As this was a likely place for past inhabitation by First Nations People, the site was investigated and overseen by Wurundjeri Traditional owners during excavation to ensure any cultural materials were found they could be sensitively recovered.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow.
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