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Glazings take on Haute Couture

April 11, 2014

Viridian’s high-end glass plays a key role in a transformation of display windows, as design set pieces in their own right. Ensuring the Chanel empire continues to remain true to its origins of classic perfumes and fashion apparel. Its retail stores have plenty to live up to reflecting a 105-year history with a timeless heartbeat.


The haute couture retailers Melbourne storefront on the corner of Russell St. and Flinders Lane is in the classic mould and almost anti-fashion with its preference for the golden age of elegance and grandeur. Classical façade elements are punctuated with Viridian’s AssaultGuardTM impact resistant glass to protect the store’s high-end merchandise without compromise to clarity.

This former bank building most recently Scientology headquarters, appeared to be stumbling towards oblivion – until developer extraordinaire David Marriner saw potential and realised a sharp connection with the Paris-bred brand. In the process, Marriner sought the services of Melbourne’s Trethowan Architecture to help reinstate the building.

Working with New York interiors architect Peter Marino, Trethowan captures the grand, boom-time Melbourne, prior to Flinders Lanes transition as rag-trade strip. Project architect Richard Wood and Bruce Trethowan explain the challenges and triumphs of designing for the high tailored client and clientele.


Were there issues about working with a demanding client that made your job especially testing?

RW: This retail is certainly different from almost any other store. It’s configured as a series of interlocking rooms for display, sitting and changing rooms. There isn’t that open archetypal space full of clothes racks. Customers proceed through a sequence of rooms that offer very specific experiences of style and quality.

Can you elaborate on the new circulation House Style strategy that frees up the previously congested space?

BT: The building now has three entrances – Flinders Lane, The Hyatt Hotel and Russell St. This didn’t concern us because the ground and first floor were very much something the retailer would manage. They proposed a staircase in a quite pivotal position and once this was located the rest of the design coalesced. It addressed access and this felt like the way it should have always been. The interior design role and our role were very separate.

How important is the role of glass in creating that seductive storefront given the importance of attraction to and the invitation for the passer-by?

BT: Natural light levels inside were extremely poor and window-sills were considerably above floor level which meant quite obstructed views into and from the ground level. Changing the sill height levels improved the whole ambience of the interiors. There are wonderful views into and from the street at ground level for instance and the steel framed windows above add a lovely verticality in those horizontal spaces with views towards the street trees.


Given the prestige brand and value of goods, you selected Viridian’s AssaultGuardTM. Can you explain that choice?

BT: It provides a barrier to forced entry, being designed to resist attack from a variety of hand tools typically used.

RW: One of the nice things about the glass is that it doesn’t immediately stand out as some specialty type of glass nor compromise views in either direction. Clarity and light transmission is fantastic.

What were the main energy issues?

RW: The challenge of the main elevation is the heat loss with such big glass panels that had to be double-glazed and insulated with argon-filled glass on the upper floors. Ground floor uses AssaultGuardTM. Because of orientation and over-shadowing, heat gain isn’t really such an issue. The main Russell Street elevation is relatively narrow and the bigger presence along Flinders Lane is south facing.

The building could have been lost, but now it has a whole new lease of life. To download the full article and interview click here.

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Photography: Exteriors – Peter Hyatt, Interiors – Steve Young, Young & Percival

High Visibility Architecture

March 24, 2014

Providing shelter for more than 10,000 animals in the past year, the East Burwood RSPCA facility is the largest of 13 centres in Victoria. It provides for adoption, shelter, clinical and training in addition to a range of retail, community and inspectorate activities.

The move from agricultural to a contemporary urban presence was seen as a vital part for the RSPCA’s growing community relevance. Viridian glazing is key to much of the architectural achievement – which meets a demanding range of climatic and visual requirements.


Barbara Bamford, Principal of Bamford Architects discusses the background to the bold public face of an organisation supported almost entirely from public donation:

It’s a very high visibility project on a busy arterial. How deliberate was the move from impoverished and nondescript to statement structure?

A major focus of the brief was to be viewed, if not as landmark, then as having a really major civic presence. The building has a quite dramatic graphic element that reinforces the RSPCA brand and also reflects the organisation’s leadership role within animal welfare. We visited a number of animal welfare facilities and looked at the idea of biomorphic architecture for instance.

In the end we settled on something we believe is an honest, open expression rather than adopting the over-sized animal sculptures, or novelty form. Everyone agreed that the architecture should define the centre and contribute towards its credentials, and so it is very purpose designed rather than clever form that then shoehorned in floor-space.

What was the standout out test, or difficulty?

Our experience in healthcare projects was invaluable because many of the same issues and stringent standards needed to apply for infection control and circulation flows. It’s a project every bit as complex as hospitals because of the stringent need for infection control, quarantine and the interface with people.

We had to weigh up such matters as the degree of privacy required, floor area, spatial relationship and so on while always working to a fairly lean budget. In terms of design efficiency the main street elevation faces south and this allowed us to be fairly open in our expression to the street and passing traffic.


You’re glazing program really seems to reflect the interplay between celebration and need for privacy.

Yes it does. The glazing at the main entry sweeps down as a diagonal and meets the floor at the clinic waiting area and opens up in the more public area. In other areas such as the clinic it’s quite constrained.

At the higher level of the administration buildings, EVantageTM SuperBlue glass is used less for transparency than as branding gesture. It also provides a degree of privacy. In the dog adoption and dog day care areas below the administration area, EVantage Grey is used mainly for thermal performance. We could have used clear glass, but it can be confronting for the dogs.

People can still see what’s going on, but it’s slightly obscured for pet welfare. Of an evening, passing traffic gets good views of animal training or exhibitions. In sensitive areas – the clinic for instance is potentially sensitive – translucent glazing ensures natural light and privacy.

We layered glass just like clothing for comfort and specific needs. There’s no doubt Viridian’s SuperBlueTM is a key here and being present to watch its installation was tremendously satisfying. We had confidence that it would work well and we weren’t disappointed.

To download the full article and interview click here.

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Photography by Peter Hyatt.


Cool Pool, Clear Glass

March 12, 2014

Set in an historic precinct, the new Aqualink, connects effortlessly with its surrounds, in no small part due to a remarkable transparency. Located just metres from the original water-hole and beautifully integrated into Surrey Park, Aqualink Box Hill thinks big, yet retains a lively human scale.


Designed by William Ross Architects, the latest $30 million update is such a wholesale makeover that only the awkward triangular footprint of the previous complex is recognizable. Glass, water, landscape and historic counterpoint all come together in a celebration of leisure, fitness and well-being.

Gray Barton, project director of Williams Ross Architects discusses the design of a facility grounded in a long tradition of water-sport and play.

How did the history of site influence or shape your approach?

While it didn’t shape our approach in a formal sense there are important connections right across the site between the old and new. The idea of connecting with the historic diving pools and later 1930s facility, meant we leap-frogged that potted history from water holes to Edwardian pools because water has been such a crucial part of this area for so long.

What key qualities did you seek from glass?

From our very first site visit we knew we had to put forward a concept of high visibility into and throughout the building. Being able to ‘read’ the building is very important. Glazing allowed us to thread together those key spaces and importantly to create a convincing form. It also provides the void between many of the solid elements.

Materials are the vocabulary and glass definitely helps tell the story here by revealing both the structure and the internal/external environment. We paid particular attention to building orientation and placement of windows. The internal connections were also critical as are the borrowed views that lead to spaces beyond those.


It’s an age in which you can be much more emboldened with technology. Your glazing for instance would never have worked until more recently because the technology hadn’t caught up to the ideas of architects and their clients.

That’s true. There’s certainly a diversity of products available that are liberating and, ironically, sometimes confusing. It’s really about matching the product to a need. Certainly the windows beyond the immediate pool have high performance glass.

Many of the usual concerns about solar performance and thermal separation have become far more challenging, but on this project glass selection for the aquatic areas involved a counter-intuitive approach.

You’re always trying to maintain the internal temperature at a comfortable level and that means solar heat gain is a benefit all-year-round and so we were able to seek dispensation from the normal code requirements to take a far simpler approach.

What else appealed about Viridian glass?

They provide a comprehensive range of product options. They meet our expectations with regard to material qualities. While we can’t always demand a builder use Viridian products we detail them to performance requirements that become pretty compelling.

To download the full article and interview click here.

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Photography by Peter Hyatt & Jennifer Hyatt.


High Distinction

February 25, 2014

La Trobe University’s new Student Residence Centre may have had lightweight funding, but it has the appearance of heavyweight design. Cool, understated and quietly commanding, the new centre designed by Billard Leece Partnership (BLP), provides the perfect place for students and staff to watch the world go by – or simply hang out. Viridian EVantageTM and EnergyTechTM are instrumental in that showcase achievement of inclusiveness and an open book attitude.


The project’s cool black guise and high legibility might appear to be a place solely for student hipsters, but the reality is far more inclusive and engaging. And it doubles as a community and business resource where ‘Bendigonians’ gather for a diverse range of functions outside of university hours.

Project architect Rosemary Burne of BLP tells Vision editor Peter Hyatt how the practice squeezed every possible cent from an astringent budget.

It’s more than just a simple black box, you’ve woven and frayed the envelope along key edges that produces a fascinator-like screen along the northern elevation. 

It’s a good analogy that is very apparent from within where you can see out but you can’t see in quite as well. The solar performance of the glazing and veiled mesh clearly support each other. The north-west corner with the folded veil, seen from the main approach, really cops the greatest summer heat. It also has amazing views over Bendigo and so that’s why there is so much glass. We didn’t want the obvious big picture window but we do have it in a way that’s not naked, but veiled. 


What emphasis did you place on the glazing when the budget pressures were telling you to rein in every aspect of the project? 

We have to be very compliant with energy ratings and we work closely with our engineers, and Viridian offers excellent technical resources. Glass specification is at least as important, if not more so, than wall specification. Glass has its own performance characteristics, but these are in some ways invisible and easy to disguise or change and often the inexperienced eye will be none the wiser. 

Our builder wanted to change the glass on this project and we said ‘no way’ because we had worked out all of the energy ratings and we know how well Viridian’s product works. We didn’t want to go back and repeat the exercise for another product. It makes a big difference to the building’s appearance if you have blue, grey or green tint to say nothing of not getting the right performance glass installed. Overlaying that are opportunities with colorback, fritting, seraphic for such beautiful effects. 


Budgets seem to be forever shrinking. What pressure did that put on you here? 

It might have been a lean budget but key elements such as the glazing and deck are a beautiful quality and we really didn’t want to compromise on those. You do pay a penalty for building on sloping sites and building around trees, however, being elevated there’s that opportunity for people to meet, sit and observe their immediate environment. It was conceived as a verandah space, or a tree-house, so it is about being perched up there. 

To download the full article and interview click here

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Photography by Peter Hyatt & Jennifer Hyatt.

Shearers Quarters

February 7, 2014

Viridian’s return visit to Bruny Island, Tasmania – and a house that hasn’t sagged under the weight of huge acclaim. A precursor to the Fairhaven Beach House and equally tuned to its remarkable setting – John Wardle Architects, Shearers Quarters. 


The aptly-named property ‘Waterview’ is a working sheep farm of 440 hectares operated by the Wardle family for 11 years. Their rehabilitation of landscape is impressive enough with some 150 hectares reserved for conservation purposes and more than 7,000 indigenous trees planted. The new house Quarters is located on the site of an old shearing shed destroyed by bushfire in the 1980s.

“It’s not just a shed, but about habitation. The out-of-form plan is pretty much as first documented. Every room dimension, door and window all sit within a modular 750mm grid pronounced in the timber joints cut specially throughout the house. Everything follows this fundamental measure,” says Wardle.


Of special significance is the relationship to an 1840 cottage built for Captain James Kelly as part of a Colonial land grant. Earthy, indigenous materials including timber, steel and Viridian performance glazing form a highly convincing connection to place. The new building defers to the old cottage strengthening the other in the process. A painterly appreciation of vista appears to draw closer a dam immediately south, rolling hills and bay to the south-east and a vast window wall to the east. Other windows and breezeways are artfully concealed – a joyful blend of design detail and meticulous carpentry. Vast sliding glass walls, fixed windows and operable timber panels frame gallery like views.

“This accuracy is very pronounced in every detail, door and frame. When we discovered how good the carpentry was we asked them to do more.”


A modest 136m2 footprint sees the structure nestled on the hillside for shelter from prevailing winds. Operable vents and louvres allow for controlled cross ventilation during summer. Viridian performance double-glazed units, and insulation to floors, walls and ceiling, reduce heat loss during the winter months. Recycled materials include original hand-made bricks for the chimney, timber flooring and apple-box timber walls. Water is solar heated with a wood heater for year round occupancy. 

To download the full article and interview click here

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Photography by Peter Hyatt & Jennifer Hyatt

Fairhaven Beach House

January 20, 2014

John Wardle Architects latest residence perches above Fairhaven Beach and is their second project to win the prestigious Robin Boyd Award. Design clarity and delicacy have helped win Wardle recognition and reward. The Bruny Island house on Tasmania’s east coast earned his first Boyd Award in 2012, and in 2013 the Fairhaven House on Victoria’s rugged surf coast brought home the prized double.


John Wardle’s brilliantly designed Fairhaven House sits high on a ridge-line above Bass Strait. The house forms a long-sided horse-shoe on the west elevation with a central courtyard open to the north and protected against southerly winds. While the outlook fascinates, the house reflects Wardle’s intense interest in the natural world. 

Picture walls of Viridian performance glass are used like lenses high, wide, tall and slender. Sheet zinc exterior and boat like timber linings complete the picture. Deflected light, breeze, ingeniously concealed hinges and latches, custom-designed furniture and streamlined surfaces are all clues to something very special. Every part has a purpose rather than adding excess baggage. Even his hand-railings are exemplary.


Vision editor Peter Hyatt speaks with John Wardle:

What was the design inspiration and reference you first observed about Fairhaven? 

The idea for its materiality and colour came from that very first visit. We asked the question could we make use of the existing hardwood and bush colours such as the eucalyptus obliqua. That influenced everything from the green zinc cladding to the glass to timber linings. The only applied colour resulted from where we took photos of lichen and fungi taken from the site. 

You create your own rules about windows and walls where they substitute for one another. What is the background to that? 

There is a program of invented logic to this house that states: “…let’s not have any operable elements in those view lines.” There are winders and fly-wire to the operable timber blades, but on the whole, the house has windows/walls with views south and north that don’t draw air to distract from the purity of those views. 


We love glass walls. Wherever we have a glass wall we make sure they vanish and the edges disappear. We will push the sill below the floor and the two sides of the windows beyond the walls and the head of the window up above the ceiling. Then we will draw the air in from beneath, or from the side. 

There is a powerful transition from hinterland to ocean and that is what that site is largely about. We tried to reinstate the bush and when you enter you are almost transported through a series of lenses before arriving at the point where the experience is all about the ocean view. It’s not a house of flamboyant materials and systems so much as the use of indigenous, conventional materials.

What is your view on the use of local versus imported materials such as glass? 

I certainly believe in making the most of whatever power an architect has in supporting companies such as Viridian who research, develop and manufacture locally. We will support them and always work with them because apart from anything else it’s critical that we get behind local manufacturing industry. 

To download the full article and interview click here. 

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Photography by Peter Hyatt & Jennifer Hyatt.

Revisiting Melbourne Grammar School

January 6, 2014

The Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership at Melbourne Grammar School, covered by Vision in 2008, is virtually ageless with its fusion of technology and art to create an inspirational education environment. The centre’s virtuoso glazing, folded brickwork and deft building-as-landscape, produces a project of exceptional elegance. 

John Wardle Architects demonstrates scrupulous care to ensure the firm’s design narrative remains intact to create thrilling volumes, airy staircases, masterful brickwork and sublime glazing. The result of an international design competition, its enduring modernity is testament to emphasis placed on poetic function. 

“It’s a good time to be doing architecture in that there are unprecedented possibilities. The two main glass panels that frame the year 12 area are huge. They weigh around 700kgs each and I understand they are among the largest, single panes of glass on any project in Australia,” Stefan Mees, Principal Architect. 


It starts with the massive glass entry and the way in which it aligns with the two points of the western facade of the quadrangle building. The moment you step into the portal it immediately pays reference to that historic heart of the campus. The massive façade along Domain Road is ashlar in its composition referring to the irregular geometrical composition of the Victorian-era ashlar bluestone walls on campus and translated as contemporary interpretation rendered in glass and steel, John Wardle, Principal Architect. 

Over three levels, it incorporates a basement/theatre, administrative offices, numerous meeting and classrooms and a vast library that un-scrolls across two levels. A series of mezzanine spaces and crystalline edges divine a whole new attitude and outlook to the olde-world view of academia. 


Architect’s Statement 

This expansive centre presents a public face for an esteemed private school. It invites the community, reveals the learning activities of students and expresses a collaborative experience. 

A series of variously glazed and linked pavilions run adjacent to a main thoroughfare and extend the existing heritage listed 19th century blue stone elevation to embody our central design idea of a transparent campus wall. Our design creates a new campus entry, consolidates the school’s library facilities and provides supporting lecture theatre and seminar rooms that create a learning focused campus centre. 

This building is open to its surrounding environment, exposing the process of learning to the community whilst establishing visual and physical connection to the existing campus buildings, adjacent park and gardens, and an enormous historic elm tree. By contrast, the western most end is abstract and monumental, a solid but delicately detailed brick facade that symbolizes the collection of books it encloses. 


Behind this edge building, an auditorium is pulled out from the plan so that the roof for this space becomes an external amphitheatre – a sporting pavilion – that faces onto one of the ovals. Inside the main library building and against the glazed facade, a massive linear plank shifts alignment and size to become seating and desks, group learning zones and then a new collections area. Revealing the learning environment, these series of choreographed activities transform the building threshold to become dynamic and permeable. This building curates a journey of learning and discovery revealing the architecture and the surrounds to both the students and community alike. 

To download the full article and interview click here

Register your email address (above right) to receive email notifications for future GlassTalks articles – or visit to sign up to our monthly E-Vision bulletin. 

Photography by Peter Hyatt.


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