Feeling hygge in the big city

Rhonda Dredge

On May 19, Lord Mayor Sally Capp turned a sod on a new multi-million-dollar mixed use development by Mirvac at the corner of Flinders and Spencer streets.

After the opening ceremony, one of the architects for the project was in Howie Place talking to CBD News about his design philosophy.

Live Aston will have two towers, one a build-to-rent (BTR) residential tower and the other commercial, but they don’t concern Michael Frazzetto.

When asked how tall the towers were, he said he didn’t know. What he calls ego-driven architecture is not his thing. What happens on the ground is.

There will be an arcade adjacent to the lobbies and it will only be five metres wide. “We want to compress the activity down to the human scale and punctuate it with detail in the first five metres,” he said.

Michael is director of Six Degrees and the company has made its name in the CBD with its laneway bars, beginning with Meyers Place bar in 1994, and a philosophy that transformed the city.

“Melbourne was dead in the ‘90s. The narrative of discovery became the Melbourne thing. ‘I’m a cool cat’ is the key to the vibe. In Sydney they have glitzy venues and events.”

Michael trained in Copenhagen under Jan Ghel and his first assignment was to go out into the street and observe.

“‘Look at the way that woman is walking,’ Jan said. ‘She’s walking close to the wall because she feels protected.’ People like edges,” Michael said.

Instead of thinking big, Six Degrees thinks small. “We’re trying to understand behaviour. What makes people feel comfortable? Humans are very little. They need to be protected like babies.”

The success of new developments such as Live Aston won’t depend on who the commercial tenants are or what the concierge does to promote it, but the way people move.

“I don’t like curated spaces. I don’t like signage and wayfinding. I want the life of the space to tell me that.”

He said programmed events or the hiring of buskers to woo in visitors are just the icing on the cake. “The space has to work on its own merits.”

The company got its experience in hospitality and “a bar has to work on a Friday night and a Tuesday morning, for both extroverts and introverts.”

Six Degrees recently got a chance to bring these ideas to Docklands. The firm’s first mixed use development is Escala at 379 Docklands Drive, a 20-storey residential tower with a six-storey commercial podium, where they are trying to “accelerate evolution.”

The site has a 50-metre frontage. In Collins St in the CBD there would be 20 shops. He said it’s difficult to work with that scale. “We’ve tried to break the precinct down into pieces.”

There is lead lighting on the windows, a square created by setting the building back and most significant of all, the lobbies to both the residential and commercial buildings converge.

“You have to work hard to get a sense of action, a feedback mechanism,” he said. “We’re looking at ways of making people more visible. It adds to the safety of urban life.”

The first thing that went in was the café. “We made sure that it was protected from the wind and sunny. It passes the newspaper test.”

He said a lot of architects don’t have time to get to the level of detail at the ground. He said it took three years to get the Live Aston project off the ground and they had to pitch their ideas to MAB Corporation for Escala.

Live Aston, Escala and Riverside Quay all come from studying the infrastructure of the CBD which has been evolving for 150 years.

There are four entrances to Howie Place, providing nooks and crannies for people to hide, a model that comes out of the Danish concept of hygge, meaning cosy.

“It’s not just about shy people sitting in lanes but what’s the appropriate scale.” •


Captions: Michael Frazzetto at the Alley Edition in Howie Place, one of his favourite CBD nooks, and Angela Buckley, Sally Capp, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, Jason Vieusseux turn the sod. 

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