The extension to this heritage-listed building in Melbourne’s CBD sought to erect two new levels of office space. It was conceived and designed by SJB architects. The requirement from the architect was for these to appear as a separate building, hovering ethereally above the existing structure.
SJB understood that in order for the illusion to succeed, the facade element needed to appear as light as possible. Structure needed to be minimized to “recede,” leaving the finish of the mesh in the foreground.
The folded shape wraps itself around the structure more like a skin than what we know as a facade in today’s buildings, cleverly hiding the regular form of the building behind. The result is a facade of unique “lightness” and transparency, the woven mesh filter held firmly in place with tensile cables to protect the glazed wall behind. The support elements using colour fade into the background accentuating the modern architectural facade.
Ronstan Tensile Architecture was involved early in the design process, assisting SJB to achieve the desired effect. Working closely with the architects and project engineers, Irwin Consulting, Ronstan developed the details that would adhere to the above intent.
The cranked beams of the modern facade provide structural anchor points for our ACS1 cables, which span the sides of the building and hold custom cable clamps to suspend the woven mesh. The mesh was the most critical part of the project and required close attention. During installation, Ronstan Tensile Architecture worked closely with the Locker Group to ensure the panels of mesh could be installed at height efficiently. Emphasis was placed on tolerances and detailing, especially at the changes in direction of the facade.
The resulting detail for the hills and valleys of the facade is in fact a “negative” detail with the stainless steel cable providing the sharp clean line and the mesh offset from this providing a shadow line either side. This solution allowed the tolerances of the mesh and steel to marry closely and enabled a simpler installation methodology to be executed.
This project broke new ground in woven mesh facade detailing, doing away with channels, secondary structures and unnecessary bulky and clunky details. Instead, the modern architectural facade relies on the elegance and strength of Ronstan’s stainless steel cables, and the ingenuity behind their detailing to achieve its goals.
The “skin” or facade of 103-105 Lonsdale St is indeed the standout element on this building and it exemplifies, second to none, the qualities of tensile facades: lightness, protection, enhancement and strength.