This prestigious beachside apartment building by Virginia Kerridge Architect stands out from its neighbours by virtue of its articulate materiality and sensitive human scale.
Directly facing onto Main Beach on the Gold Coast, the recently completed M3565 Main Beach Apartments by Virginia Kerridge Architect stands out from the diverse neighbouring buildings, not in terms of height or outline, as so many Gold Coast buildings do, but by virtue of a human urban scale and a disciplined, deceptively simple Euclidean clarity of architectural form. This purity of form is enlivened by a beautifully layered, abstract composition of timber slatted screens, zinc panels, articulated concrete floor decks and elegant metal railings, all well proportioned, carefully detailed and crafted from natural materials.
The prestigious eight-storey, seven-residence apartment building is intended for the upper echelons of the residential market, as a new level of luxury living on the Gold Coast. The developer, Magic Millions owner Katie Page, purchased the 882-square-metre prime site for this purpose and initiated the project in early 2008. The brief was developed with Sydney-based architect Virginia Kerridge, who has received numerous awards for her residential architecture and her work with existing buildings.
In collaboration with Malcolm Middleton Architects and in consultation with then Gold Coast City Architect Philip Follent and other interested parties, an urban design report was submitted in April 2008 that proposed an alternative to the poor quality of the surrounding existing context, both architecturally and in terms of the public realm. Due to a three-storey height limit and local objections, a protracted legal process ensued before the project was eventually given the go-ahead. Now that M3565 has been built, it is clear that its architectural expression is a visually welcome addition to Main Beach and that it enhances public amenity, through the understated but carefully considered landscaping by Cardno of its surrounds and the adjoining public beach access.
For Katie Page, Virginia Kerridge was a natural choice as the architect. The two had worked together previously on other projects in northern New South Wales and the Hunter Valley. In these and Kerridge’s other works, the artistic sensibility of a painter, printmaker and potter, as well as that of an architect, informs the work and there is a clear focus on the play of colour, materiality and natural daylight. The collage- like quality of the facades of M3565 Main Beach Apartments derives from Kerridge’s painterly approach to architecture, combining the subtle palette of raw colours and the sensuality of sand-coloured off-form concrete, grey ironbark timber, blue-grey zinc and black balustrades with precise, well-composed articulation.
The highly durable recycled ironbark used externally was sourced from some of the sixty-eight timber bridges of the former Kingaroy to Theebine railway line, opened in stages from 1886 to 1904. The timber has been chemically treated and pre- aged by being left out in the sun. So it will retain its already naturally weathered appearance, despite the harshness of the coastal environment. Similarly, the Rheinzink titanium zinc panels and roofing were also pre-weathered. This is an authentic architecture of materiality, very much grounded in what Finnish architect and theorist Juhani Pallasmaa describes as the “veracity of matter.”
The setback of the glazed facades, behind independently moveable screens of timber battens, ensures shading in summer and allows warming winter sun to enter, while also providing privacy. The screens protect deep courtyard recesses in the inner facade from the prevailing winds, which comfortably provide natural ventilation within the apartments. The bedrooms have full-height glazed doors that open onto these external screened spaces, giving a sense of connection to the outdoors without the feeling of being on view. This combination of recesses and moveable screens also provides an aesthetic depth to the facades in terms of light and shade, which is ever changing as the composition responds organically to the climatic conditions and the needs of the occupants.
In its precision of form and use of screens to create the external facades, M3565 Main Beach Apartments is reminiscent of José Antonio Coderch’s famous Casa de la Marina apartment building on the Barcelona waterfront. There is also a continental or northern European quality to its restrained, disciplined abstraction and attention to detail. Certainly it stands in marked contrast to the rather blandly nondescript, architecturally inarticulate beige towers that overlook it. The occupants of these towers look down upon the crisply defined butterfly roof of the two-storey penthouse. Within the penthouse, there is both a flight of stairs to the main bedroom and an internal glass elevator, rising up to a view over the roof terrace plunge pool and the sight of breaching whales in the ocean beyond. The only disappointment is that the glazed elevator does not, in true Willy Wonka style, continue through the roof.
Between the ground-floor apartment, with its own garden terrace overlooking the beach, and the penthouse, with its spectacularly panoramic views of the Pacific, are five levels of spacious four-bedroom residences. Since each occupies an entire floor, these feel more like individual homes than apartments. They all have similarly spectacular views of sand and sea, which you become aware of the moment you enter the front door. The corridor that runs through the centre of each apartment opens to the living room and beyond to a building-wide deck overlooking the beach and to a deep external courtyard on the street side of the building. This allows light and views to traverse the entire depth of the building, providing a clear sense of orientation and connection for all the rooms.
Throughout the interior of the apartments, as with the exterior, no expense has been spared in the quality of fixtures, fittings and finishes, with fine carpentry and discreetly integrated domestic appliances. A concern for the lasting quality of good architecture, which ages well and is truly sustainable, is very much part of Virginia Kerridge’s architectural ethos. In keeping with that concern for sustainability, the project has been designed and documented to satisfy the Green Building Council of Australia’s six-star Green Star rating, using natural climate control, a high level of insulation and the use of recycled materials.
Sadly, the M3565 apartment building is beyond the pocket of all but the very fortunate few. However, as with so many significant and iconic examples of residential architecture, it is to be hoped that its sensitive, modest urban scale, its restrained abstraction and its elegantly simple, well-crafted design will serve as an aspirational model for future developments on the Gold Coast and elsewhere.