Swanston Square Apartment Tower
- ARM Architecture
Swanston Square apartment tower stands at the intersection of Swanston and Victoria Streets. Its southern and eastern façades feature an 85-metre image of Wurundjeri Elder William Barak (c. 1824–1903), visible along Swanston Street.
ARM Architecture used 3D software innovatively to convert a photograph into a façade. The image is realised with white resin-based composite panels connected to the balcony floor slabs. They contrast with the black building.
In a cross-disciplinary design approach, ARM, Aurecon engineers and mouldCAM engineers adapted the low-maintenance, long-life monocoque technology used in racing yachts and wings of Boeing Dreamliners and A380s for the façade.
We think a building of this scale and civic significance owes the public a visual and cultural contribution as well as providing thoughtfully for its residents. Since its unveiling, the image has triggered a level of media discourse unprecedented in residential buildings. Public discussion has explored Indigenous architecture and representations of Indigenous people, and raised awareness of Barak and Wurundjeri history and culture.
The tower gazes along Swanston Street towards the Shrine of Remembrance. Its civic relationship with the Shrine represents the juxtaposition of deep but ongoing Indigenous culture with modern Australian history.
The other façades
The northern and western façades are generated from pixelated, colour-coded terrain maps expressed in hues of green, orange, yellow and red. They are an interpretation of topography—a representation of place—rather than a specific place.
The podium carpark façade has a grid of fibreglass portholes on the southern wall as if circles were subtracted from the façade. Selected holes on the carpark wall are filled with spun aluminium discs to spell “Wurundjeri I am who I am” in braille. It is in braille as a message for those willing to explore beyond the obvious.
ARM adapted existing software to convert a photo into a façade. First, we reduced the photo to a binary black-and-white image, not greyscale. Then, Photoshop converted the image into alternating horizontal bands of black and white varying in thickness to create the face.
Next, we converted the bands into vector-based line work to import into 2D and 3D CAD files for determining the measurements for fabrication.
The result is an image that wraps around two façades, creating a clear picture. The panels have a streaming dynamic quality where they wrap around the south-east corner.
We anticipate many shared households in the building so we have made every bedroom a master bedroom. The built-in entertainment and living cabinetry makes moving in easy.
Rather than exclusive penthouses, the top floor has the Skydeck, a communal space for residents to entertain guests and meet neighbours. It includes expansive kitchen, barbeque and dining facilities, two spas and an entertainment space with a 20-seat theatre. Its environment encourages sole residents and new Melburnians to connect with others.