Melbourne’s Revolutionary 1960s Apartment Building

Design industry professionals Nathan Ruttner, interior designer at Hecker Guthrie; and Melinda Ruttner, textile salesperson at Kvadrat Maharam, have long appreciated the architecture of South Yarra’s Domain Park.

The 20-storey residential building was developed by Lendlease, designed by Robin Boyd (1919-1971), and completed in 1962. Already an influential architect at the time, the building became Boyd’s most visible work, and one of few multi-residential projects in his portfolio. The project design was influenced by the 1957 Walter Gropius House in Berlin featuring a reinforced concrete skeleton and box-like simplicity. 

Nathan and Melinda were searching for a home close to their families before having their first child, when they came across a Domain Park apartment to rent. Opportunities to live in the building are rare, with apartments seldom sold, and even fewer offered for rent, so Nathan and Melinda jumped at the opportunity. 

‘The proportions of the interiors feel incredibly generous for a two bedroom apartment. Every room has its own window and there is a view outward to the sky and trees,’ says Melinda. ‘We have lived in other apartments, [but] this one has the benefit of a full width of the building, meaning we have natural light throughout the morning to the afternoon and evenings.’ 

Nathan and Melinda love Domain Park’s mid-century features including the customised colourful joinery and retro kitchen with a servery window in their own apartment. ‘Every time we walk through the entry lobby, we are transported in time to the ‘60s,’ says Melinda. 

Even renovated apartments in Domain Park are sympathetic to the original 1960s interiors, such as the recently completed project by architects S&K Group. Director Paul Kegen describes the South Yarra building as ‘an iconic Melbourne architectural masterpiece,’ inspiring only sympathetic alterations. ‘The design needed to be neutral and pared back, provide warmth, and embrace the incredible uninterrupted views of the city over the top of the Royal Botanical Gardens,’ says Paul. 

S&K Group focused on opening up the kitchen and living spaces; introducing a home office; and consolidating the previously separate laundry, powder room and shower into one functional space. Timber veneer and porcelain are elevated by natural stone, leather, and bronze, while the monolithic form of the wider concrete building is reflected in the kitchen island bench. 

60 years on from its original completion, Domain Park continues to stand tall as a landmark of South Yarra’s Domain region. Boyd was unapologetic in designing a comfortable building first and foremost, ensuring minimal noise between floors, north-facing living areas in every apartment, and the inclusion of modern amenities such as air conditioning.

Residents enjoy some of the best views in Melbourne, from a pioneering building that has stood the test of time.