TANDEM Design Studio teams with Perri Projects to pose a potent vision for abundant living in South Melbourne.

In our work, connection to culture is paramount. At TANDEM, we are driven by the culture of our building’s users, and we design buildings that reflect the existing urban character and its future trajectory. This understanding, and a pragmatic eye on what people truly want from design, ensures that the places we deliver work in the way they were intended. 

At Ferrars Street, we ask – how is this city precinct shifting? What are the fundamental components of home life, and how might we efficiently provide them in a compact space? What are corporate tenants looking for in temporary accommodation, and how can we make that experience fuller? 

Ferrars Street challenges conventions associated with hotels and short stay apartments, posing questions about home, community, working from home and play – and how to provide them in a compact, urban space. Our response, working closely with David Scalzo and team at Perri Projects, is a multi residential building combining hotel and small apartment living.

“South Melbourne is growing”, says Tim Hill, director at TANDEM. “In a few years, that part of the city will rapidly be built up, with buildings twice, three times their current height. Working with Perri Projects is also about recalling what was there before. We’ve given a lot of thought and care around the impact our design will have on the community.”

The narrow, corner site traverses City Road and Ferrars Street. The boundary runs 90 metres while tapering from 12 metres to 10 at its narrowest point. The tram line borders the eastern boundary. We posited a dynamic, changing community across seven storeys. This $30 million project is an evolution of short and medium stay accommodation, a place for the travelling professional, interstate visitor or new arrival – to feel simultaneously at home, while being vitally connected to South Melbourne’s metropolitan bustle. 

“Tim and TANDEM bring a lot of fresh thinking to the table, extending our ideas in really interesting ways, and seeing them through to reality,” says David Scalzo, managing director at Perri Projects. “With so many things to layer on in a project like this – from design standards, compliance, town planning, building regulations… There’s a lot to bring together.”

Through this project, we explored fine grain communal living models, such as the engaging, club-like appeal of projects like The Ace Hotel in New York, where like minded travellers are placed within a thriving community, finding culture, entertainment, an inspired casual workplace and a temporary home base.

Ferrars Street offers its patrons a lifestyle of complete flexibility and comfort. Sized between 25 and 30 square metres, each of the 90 studio apartments are self-contained, carefully designed to include a bathroom, laundry, kitchen, lounge and bedroom, closed off from the main area by sliding screen. 

While the apartment living rooms can accommodate a small number of guests, Ferrars Street encourages social connectivity through shared amenity, with an on-site cinema, gym, communal roof terraces, bookable private dining areas and a ground floor cafe.

Site Context + Heritage


In this project, respect for heritage meets Perri Projects core values of urban custodianship, most visibly reflected in the tactile materials throughout the building. 

Capturing South Melbourne’s iconic urban character, defined by red brick warehouses, walls and civic spaces, the Ferrars Street building is clad in traditionally laid brick, locally made, in autumnal terracotta and yellow tones. This labour-intensive masonry work has become something of a rarity in a time of precast facades, and demonstrates a dedication to craftsmanship shared by us and Perri Projects.

“David wanted a curved building from the beginning, and was confident we could deliver it based on the curves in the True North house project we had done previously,” says Tim. “Once you introduce a curve like that, it’s very difficult to achieve in a precast product – so he priced real bricks, and found it wasn’t prohibitively expensive. To see a hand-laid brick facade go up is really exciting.”

This proud connection to the past continues within. On arrival, guests are welcomed at a custom made reception desk, made of timber salvaged from the original warehouse on site. This wonderfully timeworn material will appear in bespoke joinery throughout the building, facilitated by Revival, recycled timber and reclaimed wood specialists.

Keeping Current

Just as we approach each project with a new line of thinking, we maintain a similarly iterative and adaptive practice. In pursuit of clear communication, Virtual Reality and 3D printing have become fundamental to our design process. This immersive, experiential extension of our thinking was crucial in getting every detail of the design-dense apartments at Ferrars Street. 

At key points, we invited the Perri Projects team to dive in, VR goggles on, and make their comments on the design while interacting with the world. This sparked extensive avenues of development, further refining our interior solutions based on these virtual experiences.

“VR is the logical way forward. If you only had renders to show, you’d need 50 and still be confused because the spaces are tight” says Tim. “But once you put people in VR, there is no question about what you’re delivering. We can then have a really productive conversation about the design, because everyone’s on the same page. It enables us to be clear, and give everyone full confidence that what is designed is what is delivered.”

“When you’re designing small and focused spaces like these, you can run into a lot of roadblocks and challenges,” says David. “You think you might have room to fit something in a certain way, and as you progress the design, you find you don’t. Tandem has played a really key role in this process, by providing next-best options for these complex interiors that are not just a compromise, but also add value in other ways too.”

Pathway To Realisation

Confident and sensitive, the building will bring characterful presence to Ferrars Street and backdrop to the park beyond, making a significant architectural addition to its locale. But, though considered and site-specific, the design certainly met with challenges on its way to final approval. 

Previously designed at six levels, this height was questioned by a competitive developer with property in the area. In the end, the council cited the building’s design excellence and contribution to the streetscape, and greenlighted an additional level. TANDEM was also written into the planning conditions, which meant that no other architectural company could document the project. This unusual outcome is testament to the strength of the design.

“As a developer, you can have a vision, and come up with a range of fun ideas like I do, but you really need a great team like TANDEM to help tie them all together and bring them to life. And they do a really good job of it,” says David.

Years in the making, Ferrars Street now meets a city emerging from the world’s longest lockdown, welcoming in a new era of mindful local travel to South Melbourne. It is an inviting front door to new arrivals, a conduit to experience and connection, and imagines a meaningful way forward for the short stay model.


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