Pushing Boundaries

Perth Voice

19 February 2014

Architect Barry Baltinas and his firm like to push boundaries.

A decade ago they raised eyebrows taking on a client who’d asked for an apartment block styled on Miami’s art deco high rise.  The Miami apartment complex became the most expensive in Perth at the time, with millionaire porn king Malcolm Day deciding to nestle there with his Penthouse Pet.

Now Mr Baltinas is at it again, but this time tinkering with a bit of public land at the end of the footbridge that connects the two sides of Mount Street across the Mitchell Freeway.

The parcel sits at the bottom of the Halo on Mount apartments, a futuristic design of polka dots and curved concrete being built by the architect in is guise as a developer.

Mr Baltinas told the Voice he’d received approval from Perth City Council to reinstate the horseshoe end of the footbridge pretty much as it was, but had concluded it was a decidedly daggy and uninviting area.

So he went back to his landscape architects and asked them to design something to provide shade, seating and a green buffer to block freeway roar.

After some discussions the council enthusiastically backed his plans, he says, while the more conservative folk at Main Roads are at least satisfied it follows the rules.

There is a benefit for Mr Baltinas – included in the 23-apartment development is a ground floor cafe, and he’s expecting whoever gets the lease will apply for alfresco dining.

Years ago he was part of Vinyl Cafe on Hay Street, which he says made him come to realise that in a very competitive market, an alfresco area is vital to survival; Perth Council doesn’t charge much for the privilege of operating on public land.

“We see the opportunity for it to become a living space, making the most of its spectacular city view, rather than being just a thoroughfare between West Perth, Subiaco, Kings Park and the city,” Mr Baltinas says.

He used to cycle between Perth and King’s Park when his office was nearby, and says the end of the footbridge was no-man’s land that he’d just race through.

It was also far enough from the city and so hot and barren that it deterred people from continuing on to Kings Park.  With a cafe and some native plants it could become a good half-way hub that’ll encourage people to keep going.

“It’s the type of thing you might see in cities like New York or Chicago and we believe it will help attract people from West Perth, Subiaco and Kings Park into the city and down to Elizabeth Quay on the riverfront and vice versa.”

It’ll all come free to the public, as the developer says he’s got to get it done before the apartments are finished in August/September and there’s no way the council could get it through the system in time.

As for the futuristic design, Mr Baltinas says being both architect and developer gives him the opportunity to pursue designs many of his colleagues can only dream about.

Not that he thinks they’re not up to the task of designing funky and modern buildings – just that many developer clients care more about maximising profit at the expense of aesthetic.

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