Elenberg Fraser’s new building ‘Clara’ for R. Corporation is a new master planned estate in South Yarra which has breathed life into an old Council refuse site, creating a secret resort-like complex with a new park in the middle of the well-established suburb.
Featuring town-houses by Jackson Clement Burrows and landscapes by Tract, central to this new development is the Elenberg Fraser-designed apartment building, which draws inspiration from the environment it is situated in. Clara’s form and detailing speak not only of the origins of architecture, but a celebration of living in nature.
Clara can be found in a lush inner-city oasis just north of the South Yarra train station, and the Elenberg Fraser have addressed this proximity by using an isolated slab for the first four levels as well as vibration dampening. Most apartments are not impacted by the train station as they face east, north and west.
The block appears to dissolve into the park that surrounds it; the architects clad the first four levels in black laser-cut panels featuring an abstracted sunflower pattern that calls to mind the vegetal detailing and symbolism of the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian order. This contemporary version of the ancient decoration makes the floral eruption part of the surface itself.
The upper levels of Clara are an architectural language of economy. Slipping in and out, a mere 500mm deep profiling of slab edge creates the balconies’ honeycomb effect, which, like a bee-hive, becomes the society of the building. This inhabitation is given another dimension by the twisting chrome screens that work their way up the height of the building, offering privacy to these outdoor spaces while mimicking the dappled shade that nature creates.
The lift lobby revisits the origins of architecture, with a collection of car park mirrors arranged like shields on the walls, calling to mind the shields that adorned temple walls, another celebration of life through battle. This motif is also featured on the apartment entries, surrounded by wallpaper that fractures images of the landscape.
The apartment interiors bring the outdoors in. The bedroom is contained in a box constructed of renewable bamboo, left with either a natural or Japanese black lacquer finish. The box opens and closes to reveal or hide the kitchen and lounge areas. In the bathroom, residents can step into the transparent glass cubicle, surrounded by a mottled green forest of tiles.