Even an Apartment Wants to be Something
Words by Anthony Richardson
These days not too many apartments use brick extensively, which largely comes down to cost. However Ari by Ola Studio wanted to investigate the opportunities with the humble brick, and show that the material can continue to be strong for contemporary architecture.
I may have a bias towards brick buildings on the count of my father having been a bricklayer. Such a simple and humble building material, with a rich history not only in Australia but all across the world. However it isn’t always a prominent material in apartment projects, unless of course you are talking about the, uhhh, “stuck on” “bricks”. However on Burwood Road in Hawthorn East sits Ari, an apartment building built out of brick! The project looked to investigate the use of brick beyond a facade material, and given that it’s only a stone’s throw away from the original brickworks site it makes for a nice reference to the history of the area.
“The quality of the design of Ari is evident from the street and upon entering the building’s through the laneway made of reused bricks,” says Richard Stokes, a resident of Ari “The entry gate, with the prominent outdoor staircase, with views of the city and adjacency to the developing garden is unique and meant I always took the stairs instead of the lift.” And this design quality is further emphasised through the ‘hit and miss’ openings with the bricks, which provides an almost show of natural light in the residences' courtyards and internal spaces. Internally the apartments are kept quite natural, with exposed concrete ceilings, timber flooring and soft colours. “The materials within the space bled across the different rooms with the timber panelling wrapping around a central kitchen into the two bedrooms helping to pull it all together.” explains Richard.
The timber batten facade on Burwood Road mimics the mass of the previous building, which allows Ari to sit sympathetically among the Victorian shopfronts without being overbearing. As you move closer to the rear of the site however, the apartment needed to talk to the collection of 8-storey apartments. Black bricks and perforated steels gives Ari a stronghold and the ability to maintain a sense of place.
A moment during construction occurred, which Ola Studios could not have designed for. During demolition, a 120 year old painted advertising sign was discovered on a neighbouring party wall. Upon discovering this piece of history, Ola Studios altered the design a little so the sign could be preserved, allowing Ari to contribute to the layering history of the site. A few months back Ola Studios received an email from the Hawthorn Historical Society regarding the sign, which partly read;
“The sign refers to George Bird, Baker, who between 1897-1903 was located there (at then 525 Burwood Rd) and sold 'unadulterated bread'. Previously it was Wilson Brothers, Bakers 1896. By 1905 the adjacent shops to Albert street were built so the sign was obscured for nearly 110 years! Thanks for unlocking and preserving this part of Hawthorn's history.”