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Feature article
Caroline Street Rooftop Apartment. Image: Willem Dirk du Toit.

Profile: Pandolfini Architects

And in 1984 the building was bombed – the Turkish Consulate was on the top floor.’

There is an energy about Dominic Pandolfini.

After six years at Wood Marsh and completing a Master of Architecture at RMIT, Dominic left to begin his practice at the beginning of 2012. A project for two townhouses providing the impetus.

The Washington Avenue townhouses are situated on a leafy, affluent street of Malvern. A narrow rectangle for a site, Dominic outlined two first principles to drive the project. Firstly, respecting the context of large single dwellings either side by ensuring the mass and tectonics speak to the street as a single dwelling, and secondly, capturing the northern aspect. This was manifested in arranging the townhouses back-to-back on the long site, rather than side-by-side.

Across all of Dominic’s projects there is a singular formal gesture that drives all aspects of the built form. He draws influence from his time at Wood Marsh, although it is clear that he works with his own concentrated translation. The mass(ive) elements composed of permanent materials including concrete, brick and metal, move outward, informing the façade and roof, and also turn inward which frames the spaces with volume. There is a material richness and playfulness that occurs inside these frames.

Potent examples are rife; an oculus above the massive volume of the entry, a palpable contrast between soft and hard materials in the living spaces and sculpture embedded in the planning and fenestration.

Caroline Street Rooftop Apartment. Pandolfini Architects.

Image: Pandolfini Architects.

Caroline Street Rooftop Apartment.

Image: Willem Dirk du Toit.

Washington Avenue Townhouses.

Image: Pandolfini Architects.

Washington Avenue Townhouses.

Image: Derek Swalwell.

Despite being the first commission, Washington Avenue was not the first project that Dominic completed. That milestone was captured in the Caroline Street Rooftop Apartment, a renewal of the building that once housed the Turkish Consulate.

Located in South Yarra, the apartment is an addition to an enigmatic 1970s Gabor Hubay office building. From the approach below, it appears as an abstracted form floating above the square-set geometry, tucking in behind the core that rises up. Pulling away and appreciating it from afar, one can see it is an inversion of the language from the floors below. The apartment’s balcony balustrade references the sills below, with the glazed elevation nestled underneath the roof. But, despite being proportionally similar to the old building, it achieves lightness through contrast, and a dialogue is open between the two.

The rising soffit gives the apartment a lip that softens its profile. The trace of this roof is mimicked within the internal spaces such as the shelves and fireplace, and is also transfigured into a planning stroke, shaping the entryway to give a diminishing edge as you step inside. The feathering of the edges like this is a deliberate softening, as Dominic explains, ‘there are spectacular views beyond, and we wanted to keep the material palette muted, to let that take the main stage’. It cleverly expresses an expansiveness in a footprint that is, in reality, quite tight.

There is a calmness within Dominic’s projects, and yet simultaneously a hidden tension. The slightest hint of motion is tucked away in the voluminous forms and the size of the figural gestures.

Dominic has several new projects currently on the boards, and a brief look at them is enough to see that there is the same verve driving them.