An interview with Graham Burrows, Director at Jackson Clements Burrows Architects (JCBA)

Jackson Clements Burrows is one of Australia’s most distinguished architectural studios. Established in 1998 by Tim Jackson, John Clements and Graham Burrows, JCB is renowned for the innovative design and site-sensitive approach of its remarkable projects. Malvern Collective is testament to co-director Graham Burrows’ passion for projects that engage with the local community.

Malvern Collective features a striking architectural form. What was your inspiration?
From the beginning, we were inspired by its unique position. The wedge shape of the site creates multiple perspectives, including the serenity of the Dandenong Ranges in the distance as well as the active neighbourhood of Malvern in the foreground. We took our inspiration from the mountain ranges in the upper forms, while the lower forms  engage with the rich fabric of the Glenferrie Road precinct.

And this approach led to the multiple building forms?
Yes, each building responds to three unique perspectives: Glenferrie Road, Dandenong Road and Malvern train station, along with  reactivating Station Place’s bluestone laneway through to Malvern Collective’s new retail precinct. The architecture is about moving away from the traditional, monolithic tower to create a collection of spaces that embrace and celebrate their individual contexts.

This is an iconic site at the intersection of two key Melbourne roads. How did this inform the design?
On the ground level, the design is informed by a sense of connectivity and community. This includes direct access to the train station and surrounding neighbourhood. On a larger scale, we recognised that this is a gateway position for Melbourne’s southeast, and that called for an iconic quality to the design. The mountain forms, the prismatic design and natural landscaping all add to this sense of contemporary grandeur.

The site is also notable for its rich heritage. How did you celebrate this in the architecture?
This was a fantastic opportunity, because we wanted to honour and restore the character of the heritage buildings. We have ensured the rhythm of the architecture is in keeping with the Glenferrie Road streetscape, while the upper form is respectfully set back. It was  important that the scale of the podium element was consistent with  the low-rise heritage buildings. It’s about various scales, juxtaposing  past and present, working together in unique harmony.

How did this inform the materiality of Malvern Collective?
The lower levels of the podium draw upon the heritage context of Glenferrie Road to create a solid base, with polished concrete, while along the train line the architecture echoes the repetition of the railway tracks through a vertical rhythm. Extending above these solid forms are the towers clad in glass. Each tower has a slightly different tint, designed to pick up the colours of the sky with a warmth and lustre depending on the orientation and how the sunlight moves across them during  the day.

Your work has won many awards for projects including Upper House and The Cullen Hotel. Do these share a JCB signature which we would find at Malvern Collective?
Only in that our projects first and foremost respond to their own individual context. With each project, the built form is shaped around the unique heritage, the neighbourhood and ultimately the future residents. We believe that by carefully considering and responding to the specific nature of a site we can create a place that’s truly unique. And that is certainly true of Malvern Collective – it will be a landmark for generations to come.

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