The Whitlam Place apartments make an impression right from the first step into the terrazzo-paved entrance. Follow the neon-lined hallway and up the lift, to arrive at Marcello Donati’s jaw-dropping apartment.
This apartment building is the result of a true collaboration between developer, client and co-architect (Marcello) and registered architects and superintendents (Freadman White). Together, this dream team have produced a project with remarkable architectural detailing, including several ‘tip of the hat’ moments to design titan Le Corbusier as well as a reverence to place inspired by local legends Robin Boyd and Roy Grounds. (See yesterday’s article for more!)
Marcello has unapologetically kept the best of the apartments for himself, featuring sweeping views, port hole windows and a balcony of our dreams. Most striking is ‘the oculus’ – an eye to the sky, set in pink polished plaster. Marcello explains that ‘from apricot to aubergine, the light picks up every subtle reflection and variation as the sun moves around it.’ He highlights that this heavenly skylight has a ‘lo-fi Turrell’ vibe – although this unique kaleidoscopic detail feels pretty hi-fi to us!
In addition to the sculptural elements of the build space, Marcello has populated the apartment with his life-long collection of artworks and furniture. The aesthetic is eclectic but consistently so, as Marcello combines ‘found, made, stolen, bought and collected pieces’ including some custom designed and made with the expert assistance of Sam Fagan of Steel Scale.
He describes the living room as an ‘Italian family gathering’, where dodgy uncle Memphis mingles with the cheeky kid Stella stool; overseen by cuddly nonna Maralunga and sophisticated aunty Taccia. This charismatic line-up is an all Italian exhibition, because ‘let’s face it- nobody does it better’ Marcello explains.
But even the charm of Italian design cannot compete with the view of the surrounding gum trees. Marcello acknowledges ‘being up amongst the treetops is a very serene tranquil space, they are the best artwork in this penthouse.’
For Marcello, the process of resolving this big dream into a built outcome was one of blood, sweat and tears where he ‘would come here every single day, work on it all night, and dream about it in between.’ What has emerged is a space of ‘warm materiality, shadow play, curated moments and views’ and an almost magical interplay between volume and light which ‘gives a sense of richness that is the biggest luxury one can have.’ The best of Italian design, set in a distinctly Melbourne location, illuminated by a performance of constantly shifting light. Bellissimo!