Open Journal met Nick Travers, Director of Technē Architecture at the practice’s office on Hardware Lane one sunny Melbourne morning. Since Technē’s inception in 2002, the architecture and interior design firm quickly established a reputation as the go-to in hospitality. A string of design awards for projects that have retained their mantle in Melbourne’s fiercely competitive food and beverage market is a testament to Technē’s highly considered response. Contemporary, sometimes surprising, and always engaging, the firm creates spaces that draw patronage, attract activity, and encourage people to linger.
Fitzroy House. Photo: Shannon McGrath.
In a hospitality space, the element of making people feel at ease is crucial. It’s often a challenge to create the same feeling of calm and relaxation one would feel in their own dining room around a small troop of service staff and dozens of other diners. The focus on producing functional solutions that keep the primary emphasis on user experience is rarely translated between commercial and residential settings. For Nick Travers however, the cross over was clear. Nick sat down to discuss the firm’s movement into multi-residential design.
Technē’s apartment interiors are an extension of their hospitality work. Like living in a Broadsheet featured cafe space, playful detailing and natural materials create great beauty and texture. However, the approach goes much further than the mere aesthetics.
Sustainable design principles are applied throughout for maximum liveability. Solar orientation, sun-shading, insulation and cross ventilation are first considerations. With the inclusion of active systems for reduced resource consumption such as rain water collection, solar power and grey water recycling considered across every brief.
For Nick Travers, the most essential element of apartment design is creating multi-functional and transformable spaces. This maximises the usefulness of different spaces within an apartment depending on the occupant’s requirements. A spare room can be an office, a sitting room, and a guest bedroom all in one. Operable walls can expand the sense of space in an apartment, especially in the day-to-day living areas, whilst giving the option to be closed when privacy is required.
Good apartment design is not about enforcing minimum size standards. A compact bedsit apartment can be a great and affordable product, with the right quality of design through all the elements to achieve a clever and transformable dwelling.
For Technē, it is the power of balcony spaces that has been overlooked in Melbourne’s apartment boom, an element that can provide a genuine extension of the interior living area. Contrary to developing market norms, balconies should be truly usable and enjoyable for occupants to use all year round.
Sandringham House. Photo: Derek Swalwell.
“Balconies should have a suitable dimension, properly protected from the weather, and should feel like an outdoor room and have a sense of privacy. A balcony with an opportunity for a small garden, access to fresh air and sunshine, a view/outlook and the option to have a BBQ are valuable for the amenity of apartment living,” said Nick.
“The idea of a ‘winter garden’, essentially a balcony space with an operable glazed façade gives the best of both worlds, an indoor and outdoor space depending on the weather conditions and wishes of the occupant.”
Yarraville House. Photo: Tom Blachford.
How people use a space, beyond the checklist of minimum requirements, is central to Technē’s design process. The formulaic approach to mass apartment design is here absent. It’s refreshing to step back from the demographic assumptions, where first home buyers want a studio apartment, downsizers want three bedrooms to store all their collected possessions and renters have no interest in whether their bedroom has access to natural light.
Design ideas learnt through years of hospitality design has shaped Technē’s response to make spaces that people enjoy. Ideas that create spaces that are social, transformative, multi-functional, often theatrical and ultimately warm and homely.
Beyond the layout of the apartment, the use of sustainable materials is non-negotiable. The use of materials in the construction, cladding systems, joinery and finishing trades contribute to successful weathering and withstand wear and tear so that the building gets better with age. Using sturdy and appropriate materials that don’t rely on excessive maintenance and applied finishes is key to ensuring an apartment remains a home for its resident for decades, not merely for as long as it takes to buy a detached house in the suburbs.
For Technē, clearly defined concepts in building design must be advocated in order to avoid generic design outcomes. Apartment design should be a clever response to the context and history of the site and be inspired by the unique ideas of both the architect and the client.
Apartment design is an important and increasing component of the current and future built environment. Indeed, there is an important responsibility for developers, architects, builders and entire project consultant teams to come up with outstanding solutions. “These solutions should meet market demands and expectations and make positive contributions to our cities and the everyday lives of its inhabitants and be vibrant, diverse, liveable, and affordable,” concluded Nick.
Prahran Hotel. Photo: Peter Clarke.
We’re very keen to see Technē’s multi-residential projects begin to come to life.
Technē Architecture and Interior Design can be contacted on 03 9600 0222
Prahran Hotel. Photo Peter Clarke.