Founded in 1997, coming into its 20 years, Plus Architecture has established a reputation for delivering a broad range of architectural projects, from master planning through to residential and mixed-use developments.
Now with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Christchurch and Auckland, Plus Architecture employs over 100 staff in Australasia. And rather than resting on its laurels, the practice plans to open other offices in Asia going forward. Each city comes with its opportunities.
Brisbane, for example, has a strong culture for leisure and hospitality venues, while Christchurch lends the opportunity to rebuild a city affected by earthquakes. Auckland is also now experiencing a move to inner-city living, something that has taken hold in Australian cities since the early naughties.
While Plus Architecture has established a reputation for high-quality residential/mixed-use developments in the inner city, the practice is starting to gain recognition for designing well-considered housing for retirees scaling down from the family home, and for those requiring care in their latter years.
Whether it’s designing for people requiring greater medical support or for those still wanting to live independently, Plus Architecture firmly believes in providing a quality environment.
There has to be a sense of community, a place that allows for social interaction. Isolation is one of the greatest health issues facing people who live alone.
Those people downsizing from the family home into smaller apartments, are also looking for community amenities. “They might be keen to move into something that’s smaller and more manageable, but there needs to be attention to features such as adequate storage so they can bring with them their past lives,” says Ian Briggs, Director of Plus Architecture.
“The idea is to create the sense of a village,” adds Briggs, who sees features such as placing lounge areas at the base of a lift core as one way of strengthening community relations. “Well-placed courtyard-style gardens are another means.”
Plus Architecture is using these criteria in a number of aged care and independent housing schemes across Australia. And rather than seeing the interiors as ‘beige’ or ‘vanilla’, as Briggs says, the approach is to create contemporary and joyous spaces that all ages would enjoy.
“Many of these older residents have children living in contemporary apartments. They appreciate contemporary design each time they visit their children,” says Briggs.
As well as contributing to an important sector of the community, Plus Architecture appreciates the value and importance of developers working on these projects. “There’s a long-term view given to the importance of housing older people, given our ageing demographics,” says Briggs. Also on the radar, at the other end of the age spectrum, is the need to ensure there are high-quality residential projects that will entice international students coming to our shores.
There is a cross-pollination that occurs when you’re working on such a diverse range of projects. Each one has the ability to inform another.
There have also been certain milestone projects that have excited local communities, such as Christchurch, as much as Plus Architecture itself. The recent completion of the community centre in Christchurch, replacing the one that was destroyed in the earthquake, has been well timed and received.
The low-rise brick building, partially constructed using recycled bricks from the surrounding area, is deliberately understated. Akin to a house, with its series of pitched roofs, this new centre is an important addition to the city’s healing process.
Hotels have also become an important arm of Plus Architecture’s portfolio, with hotels planned for Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Christchurch. From high-end bespoke boutique hotels to those servicing the business sector wanting comfortable nights on the road, this market offers an opportunity to create memorable stays away from home.
A significant site in Sydney’s CBD is earmarked for one such hotel, a rarity given the desirability and competition for architects, both local and worldwide, to design in this highly coveted precinct. And from the inner city to the outskirts of town, Plus Architecture is planning a ‘city’ in Merrifield, north of Craigieburn, on the outskirts of Melbourne.
“This development is designed to promote healthy living, based on a series of sustainable principles,” says Briggs, pointing out the five and six-story apartment buildings, rather than an endless track of detached housing that increases the city’s never ending suburban sprawl.
For Briggs, and the rest of the Plus Architecture team, diversification, combined with learning from each project within each field, allows the practice to continually grow, both in terms of numbers and, as importantly, in knowledge and skills.