Rothelowman discuss the design principles of Dahua Group's Hawthorn Park apartment project

We recently spoke to Frances Hall, senior associate at Rothelowman, about the design principles of Hawthorn Park.

Rothelowman discuss the design principles of Dahua Group's Hawthorn Park apartment project
Rothelowman discuss the design principles of Dahua Group's Hawthorn Park apartment project

Rothelowman, one of Australia’s leading architecture practices, has collaborated with developer Dahua Group and landscape architect Jack Merlo for Dahua's $300m Hawthorn Park development in Hawthorn East.

We recently spoke to Frances Hall, senior associate at Rothelowman, about the design principles of Hawthorn Park, where their inspiration came from and what were the biggest challenges of the project.

JR: What was Dahua Group’s design brief for Hawthorn Park?

FH: Dahua Group wanted a sense of community and tranquillity in a common garden setting as a transition from the hustle/bustle of Camberwell road. They also wanted a “jewel in the crown” as a gateway signifying element. This was realised with the transparent lap pool suspended between two buildings 18m in the air, the first of its kind in Australia.

JR: Where did you draw inspiration from for the design?

FH: The buildings were sited to respond to the local context and create a public park linking Camberwell Rd and Burwood Rd.  The building forms were influenced by cascading tea terraces stepping into a sunken garden.  This was contrasted with solid podiums addressing the street interfaces which were inspired by boulders in the landscape.  All of the colours inside and outside were influenced by tones found in nature.  Hence the name Hawthorn Park.

JR: What part of the design are you most proud of/excited to see upon completion?

FH: We are most excited about delivering the pool bridge as it is testament to our collaboration with the contractor Hickory Group and the consultant team, to realise a design which resolves many complex requirements.  This includes structural stability and weight, services reticulation, pool maintenance, allowance for movement, acoustics, waterproofing, building code compliance – all whilst maximising transparency and reflectivity in the appearance of the bridge.

Rothelowman discuss the design principles of Dahua Group's Hawthorn Park apartment project

JR: Was there anything you tested in the design principles that were different to any other projects?

FH: We had not done a bridge linking two buildings with a pool, so this was a first in terms of the design and how it would be resolved.  (More on that below).

We developed our knowledge with the sunken garden which was not dissimilar to other projects but came with its own challenges on this site.  We tested the idea of immersion in the landscape as you descend the stairs into the public sunken garden, flanked by high rusted walls as if carved out of rock, to direct views to the garden.

JR: How do you collaborate with the landscape architect, in this case Jack Merlo, to make sure the landscaping designs are in keeping with the building designs?

FH: We met with Jack Merlo and the landscape team throughout the process from concept design through to construction documentation, to resolve details and ensure consistency between the architecture and the landscape design.  Jack was both creative and practical working towards the common vision.

JR: What was the most difficult part of the planning process?

FH: We always work collaboratively with all stakeholders including Council Officers. Contour Town Planning consultants were critical in managing the complex requirements of neighbours, council officers, Councilors and client expectations. Thankfully all parties contributed positively to the developed design keeping the approval process out of VCAT. A credit to all those who contributed to the process. We commend the Boroondara council and their team for their contribution and belief in the design and for their positive and proactive approach to this project.

Rothelowman discuss the design principles of Dahua Group's Hawthorn Park apartment project

JR: Talk us through the thinking of the special swimming pool deck!

FH: The Pool Bridge serves as both a link between buildings and a recreational space that creates the entry signature to Hawthorn Park.

The intention was to create a counterpoint to the curvaceous building form that complemented the composition but was also a visual challenge that presents the unexpected.

The pool level itself consists not only the 25m lap pool and deck but a separate family pool and sun lounging areas with cabanas for a resort feel.  There is also an internal function space for the residents use that opens to an outdoor bbq space and a communal kitchen garden.

The windows in the bridge floor and the sides are acrylic, which is structurally stable to hold the water whilst allowing views through to the 18m drop to ground.  The stainless steel cladding has a mirror effect (light on the street side and black on the garden side) which enhances the reflections of the water and the sense of a floating object in the sky.

Technically it was a challenge that was met by Rincovitch Structural Engineers, ADP Services Engineers and Commercial Pool Consulting / Aloha Pools including structural products designed and built in Italy.

As with all projects of note, design outcomes need the backing of clients with vision. Dahua embraced the opportunity and created an architecture that talked to context, created a spectacular internal environment and was brave with its innovation.

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson is a property journalist based in Sydney. Joel has been writing about the residential real estate market for the last five years, specializing in market trends and new developments across the country

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