The Lyric is a modern apartment building in Melbourne, featuring a new architectural form in a clear nod to the site’s industrial past while providing a contemporary lifestyle for its residents.

Designed by Hayball Architects for SMA Projects, the residential development is built on the site of one of Melbourne’s earliest theatres and a warehouse in Fitzroy. Located on the corner of Johnston and Gore Streets, its 155 apartments afford incredible views over much of Fitzroy and the Melbourne CBD. The design was largely driven by the site’s character-rich neighbourhood – a vibrant entertainment scene with one of Australia’s densest allocations of restaurants, pubs, cafes and galleries attracting trendy millennials, affluent couples and engaged creatives.

The thoughtful and cohesive design by Hayball Architects is inspired by the site’s industrial past with hints of the old Lyric Theatre, and offers its residents inner-city living at its best.

Quiet heritage accents line the ground level of the Gore Street facade, whose retail tenancies, “have been integrated into retained heritage buildings and provide a fine grain, contextual interface with the street,” explains Chris Tzanlis, project leader, Hayball.

In contrast, the Johnston Street facade, “is characterised by a recessive singular form with projected bay windows, and the upper levels incorporate varying setbacks, and a less domineering material palette, maintaining the architectural language of solid and void,” continues Tzanlis.

Undoubtedly, the mid-tier brick inlay facade shapes the modern character of The Lyric. Its Ash Grey brick tiles respond to the surrounding context of brick industrial buildings, and are creatively articulated with a consistent horizontal, interlocking arrangement of solids and voids, adding interest and character to the design.

“This varying facade is accented with highlights from timber soffits and projecting fins, the play of shadow, texture and depth providing visual interest to the streetscape, while maintaining appropriate scale to the street and neighbourhood.”

“Using Robertson’s brick inlay system with their Ash Grey tiles meant accelerated installation, allowing the building to be constructed in the most timely and efficient manner, whilst staying true to the aesthetic design intent,” comments Tzanlis.

Close consultation and coordination between Walkers Panels (the precaster), Robertson Facade Systems, the structural engineers and Hayball ensured that details such as construction joints, drainage outlets and capping profiles were incorporated within the brick tile module pattern in each panel.

Inside the building, creative design flourishes with striking modern accents. Most outstanding is the reuse of The Lyric Theatre’s pressed metal ceiling panels in the ground floor lobby and incorporating strong lighting contrast to create a sense of drama, paying homage to the building’s history. The red brick and concrete flooring inside responds directly to the existing brickwork facade and Fitzroy’s industrial roots.

The use of materials in the apartment corridors reflects the old theatre design, with a dark colour palette, spotlighting, ‘red carpet’ accents and dark-stained timber entries to each apartment. In contrast, once inside, a light palette, herringbone floors and bronze tapware present a sophisticated, modern response.

This thoroughly delightful, modern development designed by Hayball respectfully preserves the site’s historical significance, integrating the architectural expression into the retained heritage buildings, and balancing it with a contemporary residential style.

Photographer: Dianna Snape