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An Inside Look At Domain Park: Melbourne’s Revolutionary 1960s Apartment Building

Architecture

High-rise apartment buildings are common in Melbourne’s increasingly dense inner-city landscape, but in 1962, it was another story entirely.

Just four years prior, the 20-storey office building ‘Orica House’ in the CBD had become the tallest building of any kind in the country, so the idea of an equally tall residential building, in a low-density pocket of South Yarra, was revolutionary.

If there was an architect up to the challenge, it was Robin Boyd. Lendlease commissioned the influential mid-century architect to design the high-rise tower. A utilitarian design ensued, comprising concrete and external brickwork, and capturing views across the rooftops below, to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Fawkner Park in either direction. 

Apartments in Domain Park nowadays are highly coveted, encompassing a mixture of dwellings in near-original condition, as well as those renovated by respected contemporary architects. 

Joins us, for a tour of two of the apartments in this notable Melbourne building!

16th September, 2022

Once the tallest residential building in Melbourne, Robin Boyd’s Domain Park (1962) paved the way for a new era of apartment living. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

At the time of building, the idea of a residential tower in a low-density pocket of South Yarra was revolutionary. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The Robin Boyd plaque on entry. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

60 years on from its original completion, Domain Park continues to stand tall as a landmark of South Yarra’s Domain region. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The landscaped gardens before the modernist building. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Inside of the apartment of Melinda and Nathan Ruttner, Domain Park renters since May 2022. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Melinda and Nathan’s apartment is in near-original condition, except for colourfully painted walls and joinery. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Melinda and Nathan Ruttner. Fringe rug by Kvadrat. Promotion poster for PP Møbler featuring ‘The Chair’ designed by Hans J. Wegner. Smut magazine on table. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Large artwork by Stewart Westle, 1988. Small artwork by Grace Cram, 2020. Ceramic vase by Valerie Restarick of North Carlton Ceramics. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Painting by Gemma Leslie. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

1980s sofa reupholstered in Kvadrat Hallingdal 65. Coffee table base made by Melinda’s dad, David Henry. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Ceramics by Valerie Restarick of North Carlton Ceramics. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Artwork by Greg Wood. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

‘The proportions of the interiors feel incredibly generous for a two bedroom apartment. Every room has its own window and there is a view outward to the sky and trees,’ says Melinda.

The Domain Park foyer. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Views across the South Yarra rooftops below. Photography – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

This recent project by architects S&K Group is among sympathetically renovated apartments in the building. Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

The monolithic form of the wider concrete building is reflected in the kitchen island bench. Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

S&K Group focused on opening up the kitchen and living spaces in their alterations. Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

Timber veneer and porcelain are elevated by natural stone, leather, and bronze. Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

‘The design needed to be neutral and pared back, provide warmth, and embrace the incredible uninterrupted views of the city over the top of the Royal Botanical Gardens,’ says S&K Group director Paul Kegen. Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

Architect Paul Kegen describes Domain Park as ‘an iconic Melbourne architectural masterpiece.’ Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

Joinery in the renovated apartment maximises storage space. Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

City views from the apartment bedroom. Photography – Veeral Patel. Styling – The Real Estate Stylist

Amelia Barnes
Friday 16th September 2022

‘Every time we walk through the entry lobby, we are transported in time to the ‘60s.’ – Melinda Ruttner

Design industry professionals Nathan Ruttner, interior designer at Hecker Guthrie; and Melinda Ruttner, textile salesperson at Kvadrat Maharam, have long appreciated the architecture of South Yarra’s Domain Park.

The 20-storey residential building was developed by Lendlease, designed by Robin Boyd (1919-1971), and completed in 1962. Already an influential architect at the time, the building became Boyd’s most visible work, and one of few multi-residential projects in his portfolio. The project design was influenced by the 1957 Walter Gropius House in Berlin featuring a reinforced concrete skeleton and box-like simplicity. 

Nathan and Melinda were searching for a home close to their families before having their first child, when they came across a Domain Park apartment to rent. Opportunities to live in the building are rare, with apartments seldom sold, and even fewer offered for rent, so Nathan and Melinda jumped at the opportunity. 

‘The proportions of the interiors feel incredibly generous for a two bedroom apartment. Every room has its own window and there is a view outward to the sky and trees,’ says Melinda. ‘We have lived in other apartments, [but] this one has the benefit of a full width of the building, meaning we have natural light throughout the morning to the afternoon and evenings.’ 

Nathan and Melinda love Domain Park’s mid-century features including the customised colourful joinery and retro kitchen with a servery window in their own apartment. ‘Every time we walk through the entry lobby, we are transported in time to the ‘60s,’ says Melinda. 

Even renovated apartments in Domain Park are sympathetic to the original 1960s interiors, such as the recently completed project by architects S&K Group. Director Paul Kegen describes the South Yarra building as ‘an iconic Melbourne architectural masterpiece,’ inspiring only sympathetic alterations. ‘The design needed to be neutral and pared back, provide warmth, and embrace the incredible uninterrupted views of the city over the top of the Royal Botanical Gardens,’ says Paul. 

S&K Group focused on opening up the kitchen and living spaces; introducing a home office; and consolidating the previously separate laundry, powder room and shower into one functional space. Timber veneer and porcelain are elevated by natural stone, leather, and bronze, while the monolithic form of the wider concrete building is reflected in the kitchen island bench. 

60 years on from its original completion, Domain Park continues to stand tall as a landmark of South Yarra’s Domain region. Boyd was unapologetic in designing a comfortable building first and foremost, ensuring minimal noise between floors, north-facing living areas in every apartment, and the inclusion of modern amenities such as air conditioning.

Residents enjoy some of the best views in Melbourne, from a pioneering building that has stood the test of time. 

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net