In October, UPco was delighted to see one of our completed projects recognised at the Master Builders Victoria awards, with its builder (COBEN) being named Residential Master Builder of the Year 2022. We thought it was a great excuse to reflect on our own experience with this project – and why we’re so proud of the end result.

The project in a nutshell

Located in Kew, Fenwick Street is a nine-dwelling residential development that overlooks the Yarra River and city skyline beyond. The site on which it’s situated is an unusual shape, and has an equally unique context – it’s surrounded by mid-century heritage residential buildings, and essentially sits on a clifftop that drops sharply down to the Yarra Boulevard, the Yarra River and Yarra Bend Golf Course beyond. However, the qualities that made the site challenging also informed a beautifully distinctive design outcome.

“This site is particularly unique and allows for the kinds of experiences that make the homes stand out.” – Edition Office

UPco was on board from the project’s inception, working together with the developer (ANGLE), architect (Edition Office), builder (COBEN), landscape designer (Eckersley Garden Architecture) and interior designer (Flack Studio) to get the best outcome possible.

© Copyright Ben Hosking

The process (and its challenges)

Given the complexity of the site, Fenwick Street presented something of a puzzle. The approach had to consider the competing contexts on all four sides of the site, as well as the need to deliver an efficient solution within an irregularly shaped block. The design was heavily influenced by several key factors, including the architectural character of this part of Kew, the geometry of the site, prominence on top of the escarpment and the need for ‘visual permeability’ (the ability to sense something ‘beyond’ the building from all angles). From both an architectural and a planning perspective, it wasn’t an easy conundrum to solve.

“It was important for us to break the project into several pavilions, allowing views past each of them to the distance… this wonderful landscape beyond becomes part of the landscape of the site.” – Edition Office

Our application for planning permission was initially opposed by Council – in fact, by UPco’s very own Adam Haines in his previous role with the City of Boroondara. To be fair, this refusal was based on a few very specific things, rather than a wholehearted opposition… and we respected Adam’s attention to detail! It then went to VCAT, where it was determined that the application successfully balanced all the competing and conflicting planning considerations and provided a good planning outcome.

UPco remained part of the project team throughout the project’s delivery, providing advice on day-to-day construction matters. We were consistently impressed by the commitment of ANGLE and COBEN to delivering a high-quality end result, rather than just focusing on commercial outcomes. At one stage, ANGLE even sought an amendment to significantly elevate the already high-quality materials (the concrete, which became board-formed concrete – and a stand-out feature of the finished building).

© Copyright Ben Hosking

Why we love the project

From UPco’s perspective, it’s fantastic to see a genuinely collaborative, quality-focused approach pay off for our client.

“It was a fantastic collaboration of the design team as we are sure the results will show.” – Eckersley Garden Architecture

The finished result comprises three buildings sensitively nestled on the cliff top, with two storeys presenting to the street and three storeys at the rear taking advantage of the captivating long-range views. As well as being a beautiful building that fits in with its surrounding landscape, Fenwick Street offers its occupants the highest levels of internal amenity, comfort and outlook.

“This sense of elevation and panoramic views while connected to the ground is what’s unique. It was important to capture this wide panorama and to draw it back into the buildings.” – Edition Office

Construction certainly wasn’t straightforward, requiring a tower crane to deliver parts of the project – and taking place in the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns. However, COBEN certainly rose to the challenge, and it is gratifying that the team’s hard work and craft have been appropriately recognised. In the words of Master Builders Victoria (MBV) CEO, Rebecca Casson: “This picture-perfect site deserved a building that embraced and enhanced its location – and COBEN delivered it perfectly.”

“We are incredibly humbled that Fenwick has received this award and are forever grateful to COBEN for doing such an amazing job.” – ANGLE

To top it off, COBEN was awarded Apartment Complex of the Year in the Housing Institute of Australia’s 2022 Awards, and the same title in the $10 million – $20 million category.

For UPco, however, the project highlights what can be accomplished through teamwork. “It’s great to work with ANGLE,” says UPco Director Hugh Smyth. “They value our advice, and we value their expertise and commitment to outstanding outcomes – it’s a genuine partnership where we both get the best possible outcome and the best planning and development result.”

Cover image © Copyright Ben Hosking