Peter Clarke


Elenberg Fraser Architecture en tant que Architectes.

Part of our ongoing Western occupation, Ikebana’s name gives you a hint at the story behind this new residential and retail project in West Melbourne. Yes it’s Japanese-inspired, but without the cliché – you won’t find any Hello Kitty here (although we can promise a karaoke room). Instead, we took the concepts behind the fêted Japanese aesthetic as our point of departure for the architecture – an attention to (nano) detail and dedication to hand-made traditions is set against a natural, formal backdrop.

Built around courtyards that evoke the intense reflection of the famous Japanese rock gardens, and the ability to blend outdoor space with indoor – these central spaces offer respite from the urban surrounds, a place for contemplation. The apartments themselves are broken up into several smaller buildings, cascading down the site. The façade appears as pieces of hand torn paper, the organic randomness providing a counterpoint to the harder edges of the materials. Privacy is offered via screened glazing with a customised, baked-on ceramic frit – the delicacy of the pattern offering another moment of pleasure in design. Retail tenancies on the ground floor buffer residents from the traffic on Dudley Street with a double façade wintergarden. Planters and shading along the external retail facade offer solar protection whilst operable windows provide natural ventilation to the wintergarden.

Enter the building and the Japanese story continues. Apartment interior colour schemes can be chosen from dark, light, or an optimised scheme as an upgrade – minimalist palettes that emphasise raw materials, textures and tonality. Japan’s legendary knack for spatial efficiency parallels our own research into residential design. At Ikebana, we make the most of every square inch: island benches double as dining tables and shelving is tucked away where you least expect it. The communal areas mean you’ll never have to leave your own building: you’ll find jacuzzis, outdoor dining with a fire pit, a teppanyaki bar, rooftop garden, an independently leased outdoor cinema and yes, the karaoke lounge.

Living at Ikebana might not turn you Japanese but it may well help you find your inner zen. Surround yourself with simplicity and feel the difference.


What were the key challenges?
The client has always wanted to build a Japanese inspired development reflecting its crisp, contemporary yet classic clean lines whilst maintaining a relationship to nature. The main challenge was to work within the confines of the existing site conditions and surrounding urban context. A collection of smaller buildings of varied heights and profiles were arranged across the site to provide natural light to all apartment living and bedroom areas whilst maintaining a feasible yield for the client. Creative solutions were implemented to afford privacy from overlooking, ranging from green screens to directional louvers guiding views towards the CBD.

What was the result?
Ikebana presents itself as a retreat into nature. The concept of nature and contemplation is prevalent throughout the development, from the Japanese style courtyards separating the buildings to the residents’ contemplation gardens on Level 4. These spaces of contemplation bring life and landscape into overlooking homes that enjoy its tranquillity, preserving the ancient Japanese relationship between landscape and heart of the home. Green screens along the ground floor retail façade provide a buffer from the harsh Dudley Street interface, warmly welcoming visitors to the building. A sense of community is captured in the residents’ facilities on the roof terrace, where residents are able to enjoy its Northern and Southern aspects towards the city. Light captured by the careful composition of landscapes flows through floor to ceiling glazing in the living area, its natural movement reinforced in the clean lines of the architecture and materials of the interiors. Everyday life is enhanced by the connection to nature promoting peace and serenity.

What were the most innovative design features?
Ikebana has a simple materials palette. The phenomenology of the architecture is achieved not through diversity of materials but through the refinement of textures. A level of elemental design was required to achieve efficiency in construction by repeating, mirroring and rotating standardised elements to reflect the organic nature of traditional Japanese hand torn paper reflected in the concrete wall ends that are organically finished at their extremities. The Japanese quality of subtle, veiled privacy is achieved through a custom pattern in ceramic glazing, visible on balustrades and select tower glazing panels. By focussing on select refined detailing of various elements the refinement of Japanese culture is imbued and represented in a contemporary Australian context.

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