With the ever increasing demand for quality housing in metro areas, apartment buildings are on the rise. But todays apartments aren’t the concrete blocks they used to be; apartment living has become much more people focused, with architects designing new apartments around space and light, with quality of life at front of mind.
Parnell’s Balfour apartments, developed by New Sun Company in partnership with Leuschke Group Architects is a prime example of this new style of metropolitan living. Built in steps down a steep site in order to maximise the view, the team at Leuschke wanted to create a sense of intimacy within the development, so they designed the apartments around two cores. Essentially two buildings placed side by side, these two cores serve apartments on both sides. Each core is open and light-filled, and features a wide central staircase with stunning views out and over Parnell. These staircases provide interaction between neighbours, and encourage residents to take the stairs rather than use the lift.
In designing a building where a human aspect is so important, the team at Leuschke Group came up with an innovative approach to the exterior. As Leuschke architect Matthew Robinson explains, apartment buildings can often look very ordinary, so it was important to introduce detail into the exterior. “We didn’t want it to be a formless repetitive block” says Robinson. In order to break up the scale of the three storey high building, laser-cut screens were placed at intervals on the exterior and ran the entire height of the apartments. Made from powdercoated aluminium that was painted to resemble timber, the screens lend a warmth to what could have otherwise been a stern structure. Described by the Leuschke team as modern day shutters, the screens provide privacy for the master bedrooms, but can also be folded back at the residents’ whim. The movable aspect of the shutters mean that the building is never static, as its exterior is always moving and changing.
The brief from the developer was to create a building of incredible quality that was both timeless and elegant. Though they saw it as a high end catchment drawing in people from the surrounding suburbs, it was important that the apartments were also accessible to those with varying budgets. “Parnell is becoming more expensive, so some smaller units were included to ensure that the option still exists for those who choose to live in this area at a more affordable level” explains Robinson. The size of apartment chosen however doesn’t reflect the quality of it, as exactly the same high quality materials were used in the four penthouses for the smaller apartments.
The Balfour development further breaks away from the traditional apartment stereotype in that no two apartments are identical. Though they may have a similar layout, every apartment has a different view, and the design detail varies. Leuschke developed an interior palette that was quiet, refined and tasteful, using American white oak cabinetry to make the rooms feel light and spacious. “Light interior spaces were essential to the high quality development,” Robinson explains of the apartments, which were positioned for maximum sunlight and views.
Innovation plays an important part in developments such as these, and the team set on exploring new technology and materials to help them achieve their objectives. When it came to heating and ventilation, one of the challenges was finding an appropriate heating source that was premium enough to suit the discerning taste of the apartments’ residents.
“We chose gas fireplaces to enhance the apartment environment and appeal to the high end catchment,” explains Robinson. But although gas fireplaces were deemed the best solution, the tight spaces between the apartments meant it was almost impossible to find a gas fireplace whose flue system would fit. After a two month fruitless search the team came upon Escea, whose premium gas fireplaces can be installed in just about any space thanks to their Powered Direct Vent flue technology which allows both horizontal and vertical flue runs.
Designed and built in New Zealand, Escea represents the latest in fireplace technology due to unique developments such as their Smart Heat Technology – a remote control system that can be operated via Smartphone. Leuschke Group worked closely with Escea’s architectural team to find the right fireplace that would be installed into every apartment. The DL850 gas fireplace was chosen for its incredibly efficiency, its easy install thanks to the zero clearance rating, and the Powered Direct Vent flue. Escea’s Powered Direct Vent flue is a balanced flue that uses an externally mounted fan unit controlled by the fireplace to provide higher efficiency, better reliability and fluing flexibility. “The Escea gas flue system is particularly adaptive at working within tight spaces on apartment buildings” says Robinson. With Volcanic Black fascia and logs to compliment the apartments’ interiors, the result is a streamlined and classic look that provides not only efficient heating but also ambience. “They’re a great team that provide fast efficient constructive feedback,” says Robinson of Escea. “It’s a high end quality product that we would use again in our next project that has gas fires”.