Australian architect Zvi Belling of ITN Architects has recently completed the Hive Apartment in Melbourne. The architect developed the project with his neighbour "Prowla", a respected Melbourne graffiti artist who contributed the design of the graffiti letters, which are inscribed in the external precast concrete walls of the apartments, along with other hip hop iconography. The graffiti relief panel spells "Hive", in a series of external geometries which have been extruded into living spaces in bulkheads and wall shapes, directly determining the interiors of the space.
The new apartment is an intervention into the fabric of the block. Through apparent contradiction, the volume seeks to knit itself into a previously existing building on the site, forming an integrated new cultural type that reveals the site's history, with glimpses of period material and detail.
The concrete relief façade, containing shapes such as letters, arrows, swooshes and drips, has been slotted into the exposed brickwork shell of an old Carlton tailor shop. The four-metre-high concrete letters bear the load of all four stories, transferring to the footing through the oversized letter E and simultaneously creating a visual entry to the apartment. Similarly, the punctuations in the façades allow interesting views and natural light opportunities within the habitable spaces.
The graffiti letters were initially conceived as a masonry element but concrete was adopted for the façade and by extension as the structural system for the entire building. The project is the architect's home, and there are concealed sliding panels revealing louvered ports for cross ventilating habitable rooms. Solar panels are located on the roof and a water storage tank has been installed below the car park area. Reusing available building fabric and designing small footprint high density living are significant environmental features of the development.
ITN Architects: Hive Apartment
Project Architect: Zvi Belling
Project Team: Silas Gibson; Jenny Cham; Atsushi Kubota
Graffiti Artist: Prowla - RDC Crew Melbourne
Builder: Kalitek Constructions
Engineer: Meyer Consulting Engineers
Building Surveyor: Building Strategies
Hexagonal wall panel art: Enlai Hooi
Precast Concrete: Euro Precast