443 Queen Street

This design for a high-rise, sub-tropical apartment tower is located in a prime position on the Brisbane River.

The design explores the potential of passive, low-technology, high-ambiance design for the sub-tropical climate, rather than replicating the standard temperate-climate models developed in Sydney or Melbourne. Typical temperate high-rise models use a deep plan, with internal core surrounded by mechanically ventilated bathrooms, kitchens and service areas. This deep plan is suited for climates where inside and outside conditions are radically different, and the building envelope is a barrier against the harsh climate. The building is highly dependent on technology to operate and to create comfort, with a high proportion of common services under the control of the body corporate. The type is a sealed object, filled with cellular accommodation, where the part is subservient to the whole.

The sub-tropical type, by contrast, opens itself to the benign climate. It is characterised by shallow plans, offering maximum opportunity for natural light and air, and the building envelope is a permeable interface with the climate, allowing fine-tuning of views, sunlight, air, privacy and acoustic conditions. The accommodation blurs the line from inside to outside, and gardens, terraces and pavilions are fully integrated into the apartments. The type is a cluster of pavilions and gardens. Common services are minimised, to lifts and service reticulation – residents control their own air conditioning and water heating, like bungalows in the sky. Common areas – lobbies, corridors – are sheltered pavilions in gardens, rather than conditioned interiors.

Urbanistically, the development opens itself up to the city. At the river level, the pedestrian realm flows under the giant umbrella of the hanging gardens, to the cafe and restaurant which inhabit the base of the building. Fine grain retail enlivens the public route along the site by the old stone walls. Looking up, a public artwork in mirror polished stainless steel reflects the water of the river, and offers insight into the indigenous significance of the site. Figs drape their aerial roots from the hanging gardens which rise and twist, opening up vistas through the site to the Storey Bridge and the river from Queen Street, and from St John’s Cathedral.

The cluster form of the tower allows further views through the site and allows spatial relationships with the diverse surrounding fabric to be developed. The umbrella podium is topped by a common facilities deck with a lush garden edged with a 50m infinity pool overlooking the river. The umbrella podium relates to the scale of the magnificent fig and the tower of customs house. The podium garden has a 3 storey void through which neighbouring properties can see the river, and which allows breezes and sunlight to penetrate.

Above this garden, hangs the clustered towers, which are divided by breezeways broken up by hanging sky gardens which frame the resident’s views, and give delight to neighbours as well as pedestrians. The gardens are a mix of common gardens, from which residents can watch the fireworks, or host a party, or enjoy the canyon views of the city, where the sub-tropical lifestyle can be fully enjoyed.

The units fully exploit their access to views, light and air. Designed for down-sizers who are looking for “lock-and-leave” solutions, the apartments feature large, simple, airy, breezy rooms which will suit large pieces of furniture, outdoor living, and art collections typical of the casual yet sophisticated Brisbane lifestyle. The units are entered via a sheltered breezeway with city views framed by foliage. Every living room opens up to an “outdoor room” – a screened pavilion which extends the living space to hang right above the river. Kitchens have windows to the exterior to allow for serious cooking, and service areas allow for natural drying of clothes. Bathrooms have windows and natural light. Materials are natural, simple and suit the indoor-outdoor sub-tropical life – precast concrete and timber, stone and tiles.