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The Building Blocks Of Architecture Meet Art

The Age - Domain, Christina Zhou/emily Power - Published May 2015

Block by block, Melbourne's livable Lego tower is taking shape, as another piece in the growing trend of residential architecture meets art.

With the city experiencing an apartment boom, builders and designers are increasingly turning facades into talking points to stand out from the crowd.

The artist and developers behind the 18-storey apartment tower at the St Kilda Road Junction will reveal the first level on Monday.

It follows the March unveiling of Aboriginal leader William Barack on the facade of a 31-storey building at the Carlton end of Swanston Street.

The Wurundjeri elder's 85-metre-high portrait is rendered on the balconies of the Grocon apartments at the former Carlton United and Brewery site, in an architectural first.

But the new wave of urban art has a playful side, too.

The so-called Lego building – the creation of artist Matthew Johnson and architects Jackson Clements Burrows – rises in jutting rainbow tiers, which appear to balance like a child's building block creation.

Officially called The Icon, its cubes are stacked in organised chaos and wrapped in perforated woven mesh that will change colour as sunlight moves.

Mr Johnson said the site – where St Kilda and Punt roads meet Fitzroy Street – had long been a "dead zone" waiting to be invigorated.

"Having visited and inhabited St Kilda through parts of my life, one but can't help but feel there needs to be something ... totemic or sculptural that is like a signifier to this neighbourhood," he said.

"Because you are creating this vertical habitat in that location, it's actually invigorating a whole site in an intelligent way rather than just building another faceless building."

Daryl Wilkinson, of creator Pace Development Group, said the building was "out of the box".

Mr Johnson is also behind the group's Ode apartments on St Kilda's Grey Street, which has a Dear John letter in cursive script sweeping across its facade.

Across the city in Abbotsford, an artist's portrait of young girls in an old-fashioned sitting room – called Masquerade, by Samantha Everton – has been imprinted on the 2 Girls Building apartment block, blurring the line between 2D and 3D.

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