Parkside at IRT Pioneer Place is an independent living community in Wollongong offering 75, two and three bedroom luxury apartments over eight storeys. It's not only aesthetically spectacular, but shows that Marchese Partners is leading the way in setting a new and exceptionally high benchmark for future models of care.
Previous models of care from a hospital setting, where staff movement and efficiency were the focus, are being replaced with a lifestyle setting where person-centred care is key. A new architecture of Independent Living Units is emerging where residents are treated as customers, not patients. Designs incorporate proper entry and arrival experiences, including concierge and hotel services, courtyards, abundant vegetation and high quality materials.
Axel Klein, Design Manager, Marchese Partners, explains, “Today’s Baby Boomers aren’t willing to go into the old age care facilities. They’re expecting a new architecture of Independent Living Units. And all of the operators are now trying to move towards person-centred care, where the resident is the final customer.”
In Parkside at IRT Pioneer Place, Marchese Partners has more than met its design brief to create a vibrant independent living community, with strong links to Howard Court, the adjacent IRT facility, and Pioneer Park. It’s a spectacular design with a well-considered material palette, perfectly referencing fundamental design principles and addressing what was a significant challenge in building a car park at ground level, rather than excavating it, at IRT’s request.
“To overcome this challenge, we created a really vibrant façade with an outstanding material, something completely different,” Axel comments.
Marchese Partners designed a panel sequence wrapping around the building’s three main facades – on Kembla Street, Stewart Street and Pioneer Park – using handmade textured bricks in a repeating pattern, along with a Corten steel artwork by Mika Utzon Popov for even greater visual interest.
Marchese Partners sought a brick in roman proportions with a special materiality, so chose Petersen Kolumba™. “This high quality and sustainable material creates a sense of ‘home’ that’s recognisable by residents, and also links to the Howard Court building. And whilst familiar, the quality and slender proportions of the brick and its rich texture present a contemporary and inspirational design that will set a new benchmark for the area,” Axel says.
A combination of Petersen K44, K47 and K49 bricks were chosen from the outset, enabling Mika to develop design concepts for his artwork to get IRT and Infinity approval.
Fortunately, IRT had a strong vision to set a new benchmark for independent living. “When IRT saw the brick samples and the initial artwork concepts they were hooked. We knew we had to work hard to make sense of it financially, so we worked with the client and builder to adjust other areas so we could use Petersen Kolumba™ bricks and the artwork,” Axel explains.
Construction of the external façade took time and patience. In fact, two months of putting sample walls together before laying the brick and testing them in different areas to see how the light affected them. “We pushed and pulled until we got it where we wanted it. It took time, but we had to get it right,” Axel says. Time that was well worth the investment.
The incredible skill of Top Knot Bricklaying can’t be understated. The Petersen Kolumba™ bricks were laid in a textured bond, using a black oxide in the mortar to achieve a darker finish. The bricklaying team did an amazing job, considering the complexity in the bond and the number of decorative panels.
“When you see how the light bounces, and you see the pattern and the different textures and how they connect with the panels that Mika put together, it’s an amazing result,” Axel says. Mika’s Corten steel panels have a rustic texture to them, and work incredibly well with the colour and texture of the Petersen bricks. It’s a perfect combination.
The internal façade is completely different. White rendered sheets create a striking contrast with the colour and texture of the Petersen Kolumba™ bricks and Corten steel artwork sequence. The white courtyards work well as a reference point for residents, anchoring their orientation, so from every point in the building they know where they are.
Parkside at IRT Pioneer Place was no ordinary design and build, and is no ordinary independent living community. It’s an extraordinary outcome and a great example of how a strong vision, clever design, quality materials, skilled trades and absolute teamwork produces a standout, benchmark project.
Architect: Marchese Partners
Artwork: Mika Utzon Popov
Builder: Infinity Constructions Group
Bricklayer: Top Knot Bricklaying
Photography: Ben Guthrie, The Guthrie Project