Australian Institute of Architects - Commendation (Commercial Interiors) 2006
The “old ETSA building” had stood in empty neglect on the edge of the Adelaide Park Lands for a decade. The twin-towers of the 1960's Modernist office development on Greenhill Road had been the subject of a succession of ill-fated redevelopment schemes, with the failures adding a layer of notoriety to the decaying site.
In 2002, a new owner, The Pickard Group, came with both the vision and the resources to breath new life into the saga. It charged Tectvs with turning the 40-year-old cream brick edifice into Adelaide’s premier apartment complex, incorporating the high level of amenity and servicing that ‘empty nesters’ and young professionals were demanding in their migration to a convenient urban lifestyle. The building was to be re-sculptured to create a dynamic visual presence. It would break out of its windowless east and west elevations to maximize views across the city and hills, but it would not be wrapped in an anonymous facade of glass; there would be a sense of address and identity for its resident - air as well as light.
Market research on the requirements of the contemporary apartment dweller identified a strong demand for three-bedroom apartments, balconies that could be used as genuine outdoor living areas, two car parks for each apartment and large storage areas adjacent to the car parks; lifestyle-enhancing amenities were essential. These were the parameters - the bare minimum - on which Tectvs set its design solution.
The outcome was Air, a $100-million transformation comprising 140 apartments with unsurpassed panoramic views across Adelaide, the Park Lands and the inner suburbs, from the hills to the sea. The hotel-style porte-cochere arrival opened into a foyer area highlighted by a reflection pool and populated with lounges and artwork. There was a gymnasium, 25m lap pool, spa and sauna. A podium restaurant overlooked the parklands. A wine cellar was provided for individual wine collections, and there was a family entertainment area comprising function room, a 20-person theatre and tennis court; an entertainment pavilion opened on to an outdoor plaza and pool. Tectvs also incorporated a new basement car park, inserted a new floor level into the existing double-height ground floor to accommodate communal facilities, and placed two-level penthouse modules atop the 10-storey north tower.
University of Adelaide architecture academic Dr Katherine Bartsch’s critique of the redevelopment said Tectvs had realised a Corbusian vision with its design solution and that its “revision of radiant ideals is exceptional given the plethora of debased Corbusian imitations across the post-War globe”. Redesigning the office building also provided a number of commercial and environmental benefits. A disused and unloved development was recycled, not demolished, encouraged by the knowledge that planning regulations would not have allowed a new building of equivalent height and density to be constructed on the site. Recycling also provided the opportunity to improve the original building’s environmental performance. Tectvs adopted environmental design first principles, with special attention paid to the north-facing apartments. It incorporated large, continuous balcony overhangs to maximize shading and minimize heat load and energy use, and to provide generous outdoor living areas sheltered from the weather.
As opposed to the straightforward approach of demolition and rebuild, Air Apartments was an example of how often the best solution lies within the existing building itself.
The Trak was designed two storeys above ground as the roof of a hotel-style porte-cochere arrival at the main entry to the complex. Visitors and residents stepped into a large foyer space highlighted by a reflection pool and populated with lounges and artwork; access to all facilities, private and public, radiated out. Restaurant guests travelled on by lift or stairway. The focus of the 100-seat restaurant was a simple extrapolation of the over-riding principle in the orientation of the Air development: transparency of outlook and function. Unique, unobstructed views of the Adelaide Park Lands and immediate environs provided a ‘widescreen’ visual experience which Tectvs simply enhanced by taking a passive approach to interior design. The restaurant was an open glass box, hovering in mid-air, colours and neutral treatments, subservient to the visual activity outside. From the outside it was a striking form of structural blades and copper detailing, announcing itself as a destination to the city.
Tectvs gave the restaurant an importance beyond the obvious: it would be a landmark arrival point to Air for visitors and diners and a hub for community interaction, where residents could gather and circulate, from breakfast to cocktails, coffee to dinner.