New Zealand Commercial Design Trends Series NZ Commercial Design Trends Vol. 30/6 - Page 23

Project 41X – Australian Institute of Architects office Preceding pages and left: Tapered concrete fins and cutaway elements define the facade of 41X, the new Melbourne office of the Australian Institute of Architects. Designed by architecture firm Lyons, the building is an abstract reference to the established solid stone buildings in the precinct. The green anodised aluminium panels acknowledge the sustainability focus – the building has a 5 Star Green Star rating and a 5 Star NABERS rating. Below:An open staircase that can be seen from outside the building links the different levels of the institute’s tenancy. It also helps to animate the exterior and enhances the connection with the street. Location: Melbourne, Victoria There was a lot of interest in what was proposed for this prime corner building site in the heart of Melbourne. And it’s scarcely surprising – the site at 41 Exhibition Street was owned by the Australian Institute of Architects, which was looking to develop a new commercial building. Architect Adrian Stanic of Lyons, the firm that won a competition to design 41X, as it is known, says the word “exemplar” was used a lot during the design phase. “The institute was looking to create a benchmark office building that would achieve architectural excellence with a commercial performance to match,” Stanic says. “In addition, it became increasingly clear as the design evolved, that the building could set a precedent for sustainability.” Institute president Paul Berkemeier says that not only was the institute wanting to set serious design benchmarks, but the development also needed to be a prudent investment that would stand the institute in good financial stead for many years to come. However, at 330m2, the size of the site was a challenge for the design team. Stanic says compared to other city blocks, it is a postage stamp. “But it is a premium location amid a lot of solid Architect: Lyons stone and concrete commercial buildings, and in a precinct close to prominent public heritage buildings, such as Parliament House. We chose to reference this typology in the materials and form, but in an abstract way. Cost considerations meant we couldn’t build in stone, so we chose concrete.” The architect says the design of the building was subsequently conceptualised as a large, solid block, with large pieces carved away to reveal the programme behind. “The glass and concrete create a simultaneous sense of heaviness and transparency. The institute wanted the building to engage with the public – it was important that this wasn’t seen as a purely commercial building. It needed to have a human scale that would reflect the institute’s desire to be connected both to its members and the public. The carved, sculpted form of the building facilitates this openness with the street – on the corner of the building, for example, there is a clear view of the open stairway within the institute tenancy.” Stanic says the design strategy was to ensure openness of the entry lobby to the corner, so it would become contiguous with the street. “Institute members and the public can walk SEARCH | SAVE | SHARE AT 21