FOCUS: Project Interviews

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  • 01 July 2017
    FOCUS: Project Interviews
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01 July 2017

FOCUS: Project Interviews

By Toby Maxwell (FX)

Three leading designers from practices Arney Fender Katsalidis, SHH and Conran and Partners take us through recent projects and the considerations they required

The days of Identikit residential developments are long gone, with expectations higher than ever for personalised, unique spaces that deliver both consumer appeal and meaningful integration with the environment.

Meeting these demands requires some creative muscle flexing from architects and designers. While at one end of the developer market keeping costs down is everything, things are a little more complicated than that when designing for the luxury side of the coin.

Budgets remain important of course, but coming up with the layout, the aesthetic and specifying the right finishes to appeal to the well-heeled all take the top spot in the list of priorities.

Among a diverse set of projects featured in this special focus on the residential sector is a sprawling London brownfield site that is being repurposed to create one of the city’s most desirable residential hot-spots; an ultra luxury development in Dubai that more than maintains the top-end traditions of other builds in the region, and an innovative design in Luxembourg aiming to redefine luxury through good design rather than just a large price.

Over the following pages are a number of residential projects that encompass a wide range of development criteria, from high-rise London living to hill-top abodes that embrace their natural surroundings. There is also a selection of key products with the credentials to make all the difference to a residential design scheme.

The Mansion, Marylebone, London

Earle Arney, director and MD of the London studio of Arney Fender Katsalidis, explains the background to a top-end apartment project in central London…

FX: What was the initial design brief for The Mansion and how did you go about fulfilling this?

Earle Arney: The initial brief was to create a contemporary version of the Marylebone pied-à-terre that existed in the Edwardian period throughout the area. As the first London project of developer Clivedale, this was also an exercise in brand creation to position our client and differentiate their product in a refined and elegant manner.

What were some of the biggest design challenges with this particular project?

One of the biggest challenges was to choreograph an arrival sequence that descended to a lower level before residents proceeded to the upper residential floors. Our client wanted every resident to feel like an honoured guest so we created a dramatic entrance hall that led to a textured sunken garden. On arrival the expansive travertine-hewn entrance hall is both unexpected and gracious. The majestic stair cascades to the sunken garden and invites residents to make a dramatic entrance every day. The garden is modelled on the delight of the sunken gardens at Kensington Palace. The edges of the space are defined with layered planting that provides a soft and wispy blurring of its edges. It will be an oasis that welcomes everyone to the Mansion.

The lounge at Marylebone Mansion

How involved do developers tend to get in the real detail of projects such as these?

Fortunately our clients are very passionate about design. They understand that details matter. Consequently, they immersed themselves into most facets of the project and we were rewarded by being able to partner with them to craft elements, right down to the bespoke door hardware.

What is the high-end residential market like in London right now and how does it compare with other hotspots both in terms of business volume and creative implementation?

The high-end residential market in London feels like it is potentially rising from the ashes albeit in a new incarnation. We spent a good deal of time last year resizing a range of large luxury apartment projects and ‘retuning’ them to align with the shifting market. It is early days, but so far this year we have seen an increased enquiry level for such projects – London is clearly a safe-haven for investment and stock is limited. At the same time we are also witnessing increased activity in Zones 3, 4 and 5 as well as city-fringe infill developments. Perhaps the unifying condition across all of these areas is a desire for architectural and interior designs to be authentic and differentiated. The days of prolific sameness, represented most commonly by beige stone bathrooms and kitchens, are gone.

What interior styles and materials choices are key within some of the recent residential projects that you have undertaken?

We are seeing an emergence of a richer palette of materials as well as an increased interrogation of proportion and spatial sequences. Our work has employed many material types, including raw off-form concrete and Corten steel, in some of our art gallery projects. These are now being introduced into residential and hotel projects combined with more refined and bespoke materials and finishes such as bronze and glass-blown ceramics. The combination of such textures creates a richer experience of space.

What is it about Arney Fender Katsalidis’ offering as a practice that sets it apart, and how would you define the firm’s philosophy?

What sets Arney Fender Katsalidis apart is that we are a ‘global boutique’ practice with a clear purpose ‘to enable people to live, work and play better’. We do this by rigorously focusing only on our three project types: residential/hotels, offices and art galleries. We strive to be the world’s best within these three sectors and, as both architects and interior designers, we design from the inside-out as much as the outside-in. We think there is a tremendous opportunity in London to challenge the status quo and think differently. We are blessed to have great clients and once we have worked together, all our clients return to hire us again. We are very fortunate.

The Mansion’s entrance leads to a sunken garden

Given the wide range of projects undertaken by your practice, how ‘hands-on’ are you personally able to be with projects?

We purposely keep our London studio at about 70 people to enable myself and our three London directors to be personally hands-on with every project. We also have very complementary skill-sets. Our promise to our clients is that they will be rewarded with deep-directorial engagement as we partner with them to create beautiful buildings and inspirational interiors.

Tell us about any other residential projects that you are currently involved with, and which you are especially excited about?

We are designing an 80-storey tower in New York, which is a fascinating process and a wonderful project. At the same time we are designing a City fringe infill project that knits together existing buildings and breathes new life into a neglected part of London. We are fortunate to be working across such a diverse range of architectural and interior design scales.

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