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There isn’t a property developer more synonymous with Melbourne than Piccolo, a frequent Woods Bagot collaborator. With its collection of residences scattered across Melbourne, the 50-year-old family business offers up a different paradigm for contemporary residential design, one that tends to neighbourhoods as well as residents.
“The duty of a developer is far more weighted than it ever has been,” says Michael Piccolo, who has been at the business’s helm for over 25 years. “There is a responsibility developers take on when they enter this industry.”
“At Piccolo that duty is to create something that is generous to the public and stands the test the time. We know that if a building is loved by the community it will remain for generations.”
Toby Earle, Piccolo’s Development Manager, adds that ‘good’ residential design means something different at Piccolo.
“It isn’t just about building something that is visually pleasing – it’s about creating inspiring places that elevate everyday experiences,” says Earle.
“Not only are Piccolo homes beautiful to behold, but they also improve the way our residents think, feel and behave, adding value to their day-to-day lives in small but intuitive ways. Through careful planning and meticulous attention to detail, we design considered spaces with a quality of light and volume that will enrich the entire living experience of their occupants.”
(left to right) Woods Bagot Associate Robert Rosamilia, Piccolo Development Manager Toby Earle, Woods Bagot Principal Peter Miglis, and Piccolo Managing Director Michael Piccolo.
To walk through Melbourne’s most sought-after suburbs is to pass a Piccolo home that prompts a spot of jealousy. These are buildings that seem to distil the ‘cool’ of their contexts. The 48 apartments that make up Piccolo’s ‘Garden House’ in Carlton, the company’s first collaboration with Woods Bagot, take inspiration from the archetypal terrace homes of the inner-city suburb.
“As every Melburnian will tell you, each neighbourhood has its own unique personality. Whether in the city or suburbia, we look for ways to emulate and enhance the character of the local area,” says Piccolo.
“Whether we’re designing a brand new, modern façade or integrating it with a heritage building, we respect the environment we’re building in and try to create aesthetics that the entire community will appreciate.”
It is this conviction, that an apartment building belongs to more than just the residents that will live in it, that pre-occupies Piccolo. It is through the forging of an unspoken promise with each neighbourhood that drives the developer.
“Well-designed urban spaces improve wellbeing and social connectedness,” explains Earle.
“They help people identify with their surroundings and make them feel as though they are part of the community in which they live.”
“For this reason, our design response is always context-driven, responding to the needs of the neighbourhood. Every Piccolo home is designed to enhance its surrounds or fill a niche that we have identified in the community.”
Michael Piccolo points to Elwood House, the company’s second collaboration with Woods Bagot, as the epitome of this approach.
“For Elwood, the locals wanted an unobtrusive, natural-looking building, and we knew the residents would want to fill their homes with greenery and plant life.
With this in mind, we spent a lot of time perfecting the landscaping and incorporating beautiful planters across each balcony, with leaves cascading down the building’s façade.”
It is precisely this verdancy, a response to place, that elevated Elwood House from a standard multi-residential apartment block to an exemplar of tasteful design, winning Residential Development of the Year at the Property Council of Australia Awards.
Michael Piccolo says that although each home is tailored to its area there are, what he terms, “non-negotiables”: Building materials that are natural, durable, and low maintenance; a design that creates a beautiful visual effect at streetscape; highly functional and optimizing usability; stands the test of time, requiring very little effort to maintain.
Ticking all these boxes and fresh off its town planning approval is Gore Street in Fitzroy, Piccolo’s third collaboration with Woods Bagot.
The eight-story residential development on leafy Gore Street will feature brick at street level and recessed, glazed levels above, bound by a single-storey warehouse to the west and a series of private open spaces to double and triple-storey terrace homes.
Development sketches of Gore Street, Fitzroy. The project marks Woods Bagot’s third collaboration with Piccolo.
Robert Rosamilia, Woods Bagot Associate and project leader on Gore Street says that the design was borne of its neighbourhood, a “culturally sacred” piece of Fitzroy.
“The inspiration came from the neighbourhood’s quintessential Victorian and Edwardian houses, sympathetically integrating the building with the fabric of Fitzroy. Once again, Michael and Toby provided the rigor and sense of responsibility that made our design rise to their occasion.”
“It has always felt like a meeting of minds,” says Woods Bagot Principal Peter Miglis of the now decade-long partnership with Piccolo. “We’ve been able to mature our ideas of residential design side-by-side and we now have a shorthand that makes it all much easier.”
“Every project we work on with Woods Bagot is a team effort, and we’re equally as dedicated to achieving exceptional outcomes,” says Michael Piccolo. “Like Piccolo, Woods Bagot are always looking for ways to evolve and improve.”
“The last thing we want to be is stagnant,” says Piccolo. “Really, it’s evolution that is our passion and our promise.”
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