Laconia Mills, 179-185 Normanby Road, South Melbourne

The Laconia Mills project consists of the conversion of the strategically located Heritage-listed Laconia Woollen Mills adjacent to the M2 tollway entry to Central Melbourne and the construction of a new 40 level mixed-use tower behind and partially over the existing building. The conversion of the existing building will introduce six commercial tenancies to the ground floor, four levels of warehouse-style apartments above and a roof terrace. The tower will comprise four levels of commercial office space, a recreation level and residential levels up to level 40. A pedestrian laneway at the ground level allows permeability and connection through the site.

The design of the development was generated by the strict grids of the existing Laconia Building in generating the façade modulation, setbacks and programme. Rather than adopting arbitrary forms, the solution demonstrates restrained and subtle play of the existing building’s geometry with the existing building forming the primary ‘cube’. The secondary ‘cube’ podium form, behind the existing building, is to be viewed as a separate object and the tower form and continues to make reference to the existing building through materiality and proportionality.

A void is created between the podium ‘cube’ and the existing Laconia Building to allow pedestrians to connect from Doran St to Normanby Road and also experience the Laconia heritage building ‘in the round’. Four levels of connecting bridges span between the existing building cube and the new podium cube, allowing views of the broader precinct. The Tower ‘floats’ above the podium through the use of a sculptural structural form derived from the form of traditional mill machinery.

As the tower rises, the setbacks of the balconies diminish to create a variance in shadow emphasising the checkerboard pattern of the façade. This pattern is inspired by the woollen pattern of the plaid blankets produced by Laconia mill. The façade design uses contemporary glass technology to provide a homogenous translucent white form.