Armada sails in on wave of popularity

PORT Melbourne has been popular with developers over the past decade. Apartments, both high and low-rise, have quickly taken the place of many warehouses and office buildings erected during the '60s and '70s. Nott Street, Port Melbourne, is one of the latest precincts to be developed. And Armada, six storeys of apartments designed by Plus Architecture and developed by the Buxton Group, is one of the newest kids on the block.

"We wanted to evoke a sense of the locale, but not in a literal sense" says architect Craig Yelland, director of Plus Architecture. While the Armada development doesn't include wave-like gestures or direct nautical references, the 42 apartments allude to the passing ships and their containers. The podium level, clad in white steel, references the sides of ships, while the top of three floors, finished in silver metal suggest a ship's containers. "The design is more about an industrial seaside aesthetic rather than the cruise ship model, with streamlined balconies, "says Yelland, who opted for a restricted palette of materials, including timber, concrete and steel.

While the timber and steel facade of Armada is animated, with cut-out steel terraces, it's the foyer that draws you into the building. A curvaceous cedar wall, which wraps around to form a ceiling, delivers residents to the lifts as well as to a pocket-size Japanese style garden. And at the end of the corridor, there is a laser-cut Corten steel wall with an abstract image. "It's important to create a sense of arrival, not just in the visual sense, but also for the other senses, such as smell," says Yelland. And Plus Architecture selected cedar for the feature curved wall to ensure the odour was as pleasing as the design.

Unlike some apartment developments that have a plethora of communal facilities, such as a swimming pool and gymnasium, Armada was designed for the owner-occupier market, with the size of each apartment being slightly more generous (50 square metres for a one-bedroom and 90 square metres for two). "The rationale was that all the facilities needed were literally on your doorstep and adding communal facilities would have simply increased the body corporate fees," says Yelland.

So, while there are two levels of basement car parking, completed with steel cages for residents' excess, the "extras" can be found in each apartment. The 90-square-metre apartments, for example, feature a well-defined entrance with large concealed laundry and separate powder room. This delineation also ensures that 180-degree views of the city skyline are not immediately revealed as soon as the front door to the apartment is opened.

"Just because it's an apartment doesn't mean you have to see everything at once", says Yelland.

Each of the apartments has a north-east aspect of the city skyline. And to ensure full advantage of the view, Plus Architecture included generous balconies, more than two metres in width.

"It's important to have sufficient room to put a dining table that allows for outdoor entertaining," says Yelland. And the architects were also keen to maximise views within the apartment. As a consequence, each room features floor-to-ceiling windows.

Although the Armada apartments are relatively spacious compared with many in the neighbourhood, Yelland attributes the sense of space to designing with efficiency in mind, be it storage or ensuring sight lines are not inhibited.

"You can be in a large apartment and it can still make you feel like you're in a box, but then not every apartment building has the advantage of these views," he says.