The term ‘air rights’ is infiltrating the Australian architecture community, offering much-needed architectural and logistical options to some but creating dilemmas for others.
These dilemmas are somewhat moral – just because it is legal to do something, does it automatically make it fair to do so?
Melbourne’s air space is up for grabs. The idea of buying air space is gaining popularity in the city after the Stonnington Council approved the purchase of ‘air rights’ by developer Michael Yates in order for him to secure the space above a neighbouring building, in turn securing prime views of the Yarra River.
This case was met with staunch opposition by the residents of the area and has broken the glass ceiling for Melbourne architects, who are now able to follow suit, smashing through traditional height restrictions.
In the early stages of this trend, there are two clear routes designers are taking: building independent structures on top of original buildings, and designing from the ground up.
Making the most of the air rights, architects are now planning on piggybacking on foundation buildings in order to reap the rewards of sky high living, which include stunning views of the city surroundings. While this kind of architecture is currently finding its feet in Paris and other highly dense, space-short cites, Melbourne is wading in with a number of interesting concepts.
One such development designed by Elenberg Fraser is a five-storey residential ‘skyloft’ project slated for Little Collins St.
At $45 million, developers are making most of the prime location in order to offer a high-rise lifestyle to residents of the building, while the developer must only do half of the sky-high work.
Further developments of this nature are popping up around South Yarra and Fitzroy, and are as yet facing little residential dispute. This is perhaps due to the fact that the connecting buildings are not as high as traditional skyscrapers, or that they appeal to the very Melbourne notion of retrofit and redevelopment over new building. Regardless, the rooftop developments are being welcomed for their innovation and modern take on creating housing space in prime locations without adding more physical building footprints.
Ground Up Developments
Melbourne’s latest record-breaking skyscraper, the Queensbridge Tower is set to completely shake up the Southbank aesthetic.
Once completed, the $274 million striking glass cylindrical architectural design will reach 276 metres over 71 floors – over 100 metres higher than traditional guidelines recommend.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy has, however, given approval for the building, even if nearby residents have not. According to The Age, residents of the neighbouring Fresh Water Place building are at risk of losing their basic rights to air and sunshine as the new skyscraper stands to completely block off their access to the rest of the Melbourne’s skyline.
”You can’t guarantee property prices or views but…depriving people of their basic right to sunlight and amenity is just outrageous,” resident Michael Smolders told the Age. “Why would anyone in their right mind want to buy an apartment that’s facing me in Freshwater Place? I don’t get it.”
The discontent among locals does not stop there. Residents across the city are becoming nervous as buildings soar higher and higher, with skyscrapers planned that will continue to darken the streets below.
Developers argue, however, that they are simply responding to density issues in the most efficient way.
To truly be successful, developers will need to get residents on side. Just because architects are allowed to build taller does not mean that they should. It’s not about million-dollar views, it’s about an urban aesthetic as much as it is about allowing residents their basic rights.
While changing views are a reality when living in a modern city, privacy invasion extremes are not, and there needs to be a balance between upholding these basic rights to privacy and making the most of new architectural allowances.
If executed effectively, the sky is the limit.