- Article by Online Editor
- Photography by Sharyn Cairns
- Designer Koichi Takada
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Let’s begin with the architecture, the work of Pritzker-winning maestro Jean Nouvel and his Ateliers, not to mention the massive ‘vertical garden’ façade, designed by Patrick Blanc – something special that in this case adds a distinctive layer to Nouvel’s design. The location, which was formally the Carlton United Brewery site, is shaping up to be the latest Sydney architectural hotspot, with Frank Gehry being responsible for the new UTS building across the way and architects such as Foster + Partners and Johnson Pilton Walker involved in various phases of the One Central Park project in other facets. The interiors for the East and West towers by Koichi Takada Architects and Smart Design Studio are also exemplars of spectacular design with a gamut of choices for those stepping into the market of off-the-plan residential design.
The problem faced by interior designers in this instance is the creation of an interior that will appeal as cutting-edge during the sales period, while remaining valid for a three- or four-year settlement. And that is just the completion date. A further four years for turnaround sale and that ever-so-cool chrome feature screen may not be the best selling point. On the other hand, playing it safe is going to be just as bland on purchase as it will be on settlement.
The interiors for Nouvel’s West and East towers are, however, very far from safe with orange modular walls by Smart, countered by Takada’s tree house approach. Each designer has, in effect, embraced the architectural elements and principles of Nouvel and Blanc’s vision and thus interpreted them within their own design style. Most importantly, though, is the fact that they have been allowed an unalloyed hand. “Frasers [Property] is a great client,” says Smart Design Studio’s William Smart. “Once they are convinced by an idea, they will support it – like no other developer I know – to the level of detail we wanted to achieve.”
Takada’s approach is perhaps the more subdued option, with wood and stone as the predominant materials. “I love getting inspiration from nature,” says Koichi Takada. “A lot of my projects are about studying nature, getting inspiration and then artificially expressing it.” Sliding screens of slatted American oak function as shoji screens to allow connectivity throughout the somewhat limited space of the 70-metre, two-bedroom option. It is, in fact, a clever and elegant solution, which allows a measured engagement between the rooms, while affording privacy. It also has the extraordinarily beautiful effect of making each apartment appear as a lantern within the jungle of climbing vines enveloping the building’s façade. “They have given us the context of forest,” continues Takada. “It is like being in a tree house, so we wanted something to relate to it.”
The detail of the interior further references Takada’s Japanese heritage with an absolutely meticulous attention to detail and line. The bathroom tiling, for example, has been designed so that no tile is cut and every line is perfect. This is carried through in the cabinetry that minimises line and junction through hidden finger grooves and the precise alignment of all edges. The flooring, also of American oak (the organic option utilises walnut), carries through to the balcony as a single flat surface, while switching to a more robust pine of the same grain and shade.
On the other hand, Smart’s ‘high speed luxury’ is a response to the brief, which called for a luxurious interior for a compact space. “It left us thinking, ‘What is compact and luxurious?’ and we realised that sports cars and yachts and all those things celebrate being compact and small, and do it in a very luxurious and happy way.”
The interior is, in fact, beautifully refined and has the slick aesthetic and the ambient serenity of a Kubrickian futurist vision. The interiors take their mark from classic cars such as the Fiat and Mercedes, and it is here that Smart’s vision works in harmony with Takada’s. Neither has erred on the side of fashion, preferring the staples of classic design to hallmark their work. And, it works. The orange (Dulux Orangeade PO8F8 full gloss 80 percent polyurethane) of the curving modular wall is soft and harmonious with the Russian Toffee walls, while simultaneously zappy and sharp against the oversized glass floor tiles in stark white. The study is, essentially, a tube. The curving wall, however, adds exponentially to the space, as it expands and contracts within the limited hall length. The centrally located bathroom belies the spatial constraints through cleverly arranged elements of luxury. The striated timber shelves (New Age Veneers 2 Ebony Straight) and vinyl panelling, coupled with the expanding element of mirrors, add a profusion of richness without cluttering or burdening the space. It is, in fact, exceptionally handsome.
Its also safe to say that the interiors of both Takada and Smart will be as beautiful on completion as they are in display. More importantly, however, neither will be boring. By interpreting the architectural elements through classic design – within the aesthetic of their separate oeuvres – each has created a unique position. Granted, it is a position realised through high-quality materials and the imprimatur of both the designers and architects. Nonetheless, the very fact that both Takada and Smart have evolved their vision as a dialogue with the architecture speaks volumes for the project’s potential and longevity and, perhaps with that very intent, does much to assuage the jitters of a three-year wait.