New arcade at Escala

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Rhonda Dredge

Last month Docklands News reported on the completion of a new mixed-use development on Docklands Drive with a residential tower and a striking arched facade to the street.

This month it reveals the inner workings of the precinct as tenants get ready to move in and bring it to life.

At street level there are small strips of leadlight window that catch the eye.

These have been strategically placed to encourage people to use a new arcade through the complex as they cut the corner.

“A building has to work in the first five metres,” architect Michael Frazzetto said.

 

We want to compress the activity down to the human scale and punctuate it with detail in the first five metres.

 

Michael is director of Six Degrees and the company has made its name in the CBD with its laneway bars, beginning with Meyers Place bar in 1994, and a philosophy that transformed the city.

Now it wants to bring that narrative of discovery to Docklands where what Michael calls a “plantation” approach to development has dominated.

The firm’s first mixed-use development is Escala at 379 Docklands Drive, a 20-storey residential tower with a six-storey commercial podium, where they are trying to “accelerate evolution”.

The site has a 50-metre frontage. In Collins St in the CBD there would be 20 shops. “We’ve tried to break the precinct down into pieces.”

There is lead lighting on the windows, a square created by setting the building back and most significant of all, the lobbies to both the residential and commercial buildings converge.

“You have to work hard to get a sense of action, a feedback mechanism,” Michael said. “We’re looking at ways of making people more visible. It adds to the safety of urban life.”

The first thing that went in was the café. “We made sure that it was protected from the wind and sunny. It passes the newspaper test.”

He said a lot of architects don’t have time to get to the level of detail at the ground. The company had to pitch their ideas to MAB Corporation, ideas that come from studying the infrastructure of the CBD which has been evolving for 150 years.

Six Degrees has used Capitol Arcade off Swanston St as a model at Escala.

Michael trained in Copenhagen under Jan Ghel and his first assignment was to go out into the street and observe.

“‘Look at the way that woman is walking,’ Jan said. ‘She’s walking close to the wall because she feels protected.’ People like edges.”

Instead of thinking big, Six Degrees thinks small. “We’re trying to understand behaviour. What makes people feel comfortable? Humans are very little. They need to be protected like babies.” •

 

Captions: The new arcade at Escala attracts a visitor.

Architect Michael Frazzetto in the Capitol Arcade off Swanston St.

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