Shea Residences

Townhouse Residential


St Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland


Sunland Design Group

The design approach to this project was particularly unique. Greg O’Shea, a prominent but quiet landscape architect from the Gold Coast, was originally commissioned for the landscape design of the residences. Greg had a passion for minimalism which complimented the overall vision for the site and the general design direction of the client. Sadly, Greg passed away suddenly in 2015 while the project was still in its early conceptual phases. The client graciously named the project after him and his initial design directions were respectfully carried through by the Form Team.

Landscape as art was a particularly strong focus of the design and the clustered geometric arrangement of the built form lent itself to a contemporary patterning similar to the artistic works of Piet Mondrian, many of which were a series of colourful rectangular shapes connected and divided by strong but delicate black lines. Weaving these ideas and the simplistic design drivers into the design helped inform the shape of gardens, the flow of pathways and the articulation of water features, fences and walls. True simplicity is difficult to achieve, especially as function begins to drive and guide the forms of the design. Considerable effort was expended to regularly review the design as it progressed into the built form to safeguard these design principles.

A common feature of podium landscapes is unsightly raised block work planters which can clutter the ground plane and interfere with a minimalist approach. The design strategy on the central spine was to simplify and reduce as many of these planters as possible, working with the complex sloping podium structure. Some planters were required to achieve planting depth for trees and these were offset into the surrounding garden spaces and obscured by the surrounding planting. The final outcomes of these efforts reflect a wonderfully seamless and simple central spine landscape.

Reflective water features also came under similar scrutiny to maintain a light touch on the ground plane. Multiple construction methodologies were explored to achieve a delicate edge to the water without putting too much strain on the project budget. After a series of prototypes were built and tested, the final result was a marine ply frame encased in a polished fiberglass shell which gave the water features a delicate form while also being light weight to aid in the ease of installation.

The plant palette for the project was simplified to preserve the core design principles and the selected plants were carefully considered in terms of appropriateness to climate, planting depths and design focus. Simple but elegant carpets of star jasmine dominate the planting areas, lightly pruned to control growth and regularly providing a covering of white flowers coupled with a beautiful aroma. Pink trumpet trees accentuate the vertical plane against the striking architectural forms down the central spine and seasonally provide points of difference starting with lush green foliage that falls during the drier winter months culminating in a bright pink floral display in spring. A functional plant inclusion that also uses an older training technique for a striking appearance is the Lisbon lemon tree. To make efficient use of a narrow space and harness the warmth stored in the adjacent wall, these trees have been espaliered onto a series of wire cables and form a beautiful green latticework that produces fruit for the residents.

A historical sandstone pavilion exists on the site that previously formed part of the main entrance to the administration building of the Brisbane Central Technical College. This later became the Queensland Institute ofTechnology and is now known as the Queensland University ofTechnology. Until demolition began on the principal residence this artefact was hidden from view in the thick overgrown landscape. The pavilion has been retained and re-purposed for the residents and is now positioned as a centre piece for the social and recreation hub of the site. The building itself features a lounge, cinema and entertaining kitchen overlooking the pool and connects to an outdoor gym and barbecues. The juxtaposition of the period architecture with the contemporary minimalism offers an exceptionally striking social gathering space for the residents.

The successful delivery of this landscape design is something that the Form team are extremely proud of. The delivery of Greg O’Shea’s initial vision through the careful detailed design and documentation stages of the project has added an extra dimension of depth and meaning to this development.