PICA's Design

PICA's Design

With a passion for detail, individual style and integrity for internal and exterior structure design, ApartmentDevelopments.com.au spoke to Fei Chau from ClarkHopkinsClarke, designers of PICA development, where he shared his tips for modern apartment design.

ApartmentDevelopments.com.au
Tell us about how you got started in the industry that has led you to apartment design? 

Fei Chau:
Following a stint living and working in HK a seed was planted with my interest in apartments and interior design - especially regarding space as a premium and storage.  This period opened up my thinking of how things can be integrated to save space and really bring things back down to necessities.  Growing up in Australia, space wasn’t really an issue. I believe, on a social level, living within appropriate densities in cities is far more environmentally friendly than spreading out and taking up valuable farming land for mac-mansions.  Especially in such an expansive metropolitan boundary we have in Melbourne. Despite the rise in apartment living and smaller square metre-age in apartments being built, we are still spoilt for choice in Australia.  I recall when submitting plans and working out areas in Hong Kong, these were measured to 3 decimal points!

AD:
When did you come to CHC and why? Describe their apartment portfolio you’re working on. 

FC:
I started in my third year of university part-time, graduated, went abroad and came back. I had fond memories working here before and it’s been 7 years now and it’s still a great place to work.  I work mostly with CHC Partner Toby Lauchlan. Toby plays a key role in the Multi-Residential sector here and between us the portfolio of work has varied in scale. CHC has a number of apartment projects in the development phase and some set to finish early 2015.  It will be great to see these come fruition.  The need for good design on the outside to flow inside makes a big difference in the overall experience of where you live. I am thrilled with the opportunity to design for both!

AD:
Advice to designers about creating the best apartments?

FC:
Everyone has their own design philosophy but I find that we should all be designing to clear and simple concepts that can define a building.  In terms of the interiors, I prefer to exercise restraint on colour to fixed items, because it’s just as much as about the occupier’s personality as it is a designer’s priority.

AD:
What trend are you excited about in apartment design? Similarly what trend is gone for good thankfully!

FC:
The good: With the right client, it’s the communal spaces.  Whether it’s BBQ facilities, roof deck, the obligatory downstairs café or common landscape area.   Successfully it would provide for that community/neighbourhood feel which I think it really should be encouraged rather than retreating to our apartments.  Just because of the scale of development, Asia does this much better to encourage a sense of community and belonging but then again it may be due to the living conditions.

The bad; Colour back glass kitchen splashbacks, especially glass with that green tinge which makes everything the wrong shade of green - I fear that’s still happening. 

AD:
How does CHC’s philosophy of creating vibrant communities influence or blend with your design philosophy?

FC:
Design a place where you actually want to live.  

AD:
Name some of your top interiors and exteriors influencers of apartments and explain why?

FC:
There is a range of local and international however too many to mention individually.  Mixing different textures in key areas if what attracts my eye.  It doesn’t have to be all expensive, just be of a high quality and finish.  

AD:
Can you give two recent CHC apartment project examples (with either exteriors or interior images), which you’d like to share and outline aspects of your design you’re most interested with?

FC:
Toby Lauchlan and I teamed up on CHC’s Thiele Street and Curlew Court developments in Doncaster.  It’s been a long gestation period but the completion is finally in sight. Each has a different target market. Investor at Thiele St but owner-occupier at Curlew Court.  The kitchens and bathrooms are always what sells the residence and on both we ensure that this showed.  We didn’t go flashy flash, but kept it refined and timeless. Thiele Street kitchens are a minimal kitchen with lots of aspects in the design and storage that we considered. 

AD:
What is the biggest apartment design fault you see most often?

FC:
Clear glazed balcony balustrades.  Urgh! You often see the A/C unit condensers but worse when you have people who have the washing displayed on the balcony. Clear glazing just helps!

AD:
Are there any short cuts to great design for consumers or do we all need to get a design degree?

FC:
No, you don’t need a design degree…You just need a good Architect.

AD:
Tell us about The Nursery’s soft copper and black façade or other aspects of the interior

FC:
Its form has been designed so that it can be broken down to a few distinct elements to separate it from the mix responses along that stretch of road. The material palette really stemmed from its site on Mt Alexander Road. This was the primary road to the Gold fields, Mt Alexander and the Ballarat region and it evolved from there.