The home of the Collins St Peregrine Falcon, the fastest creature on the planet, attracts dedicated attention each spring as Melburnians follow its 24/7 live webcam. In response to strong demand for architectural analysis, Meanjin asked critic Esther Anatolitis to explore its unique form at the apex of Australia’s art and design capital.
To complement her relentlessly murderous lifestyle, the Collins St Peregrine Falcon prefers a Modernist apartment of functional materials, muted colours and magnificent proportions.
Spartan in both style and substance, the open plan follows a program-led typology, accommodating the Falcon’s limited routine of standing majestically, casting her gaze across the city below, and intercepting smaller birds at over 320km/h.
Prey murdered mid-air can be served immediately on a ledge deck communicating directly to the living area, whose design pursues pavilion architecture’s quest for a seamlessness to the furniture/architecture distinction.
A rectilinear living/sleeping structure—a metal box—seems to evoke the golden ratio, but is in fact a more elongated form, in homage perhaps to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, or an abstracted airport runway evoking a stripped-down New Babylon in Constant Nieuwenhuys’ imaginings, its megastructure laid out 38 storeys below.
While the millionaire inhabitants of glassed-in penthouses prefer aerial views that elevate them considerably from their prey, the Falcon prefers an architecture en plein air that dares prey to approach—with a view to die for.
The ludic landscape of Southbank appears to the Falcon as its architects intended: a set of inert playing pieces viewed across a game board, forever captured as models to seduce developers, presented at a scale unlikely to make future investors feel less powerful than the monumental structures they could influence into being.
Within the space, a minimalist aesthetic dominates. A single wall affords limited protection from wind and rain. Major seasonal changes in program have little impact on the apartment’s décor; as the family grows, the young are housed initially in bespoke structures that risk no interruption to the preferred open plan.
Even during the one-month incubation period, the home typology need not adapt to individual expectations. As the Falcon rests on the eggs, her body becomes one with the architecture—at once a utilitarian gesture and a power play. Engineered for astonishing speed and deadly precision, here the warmth and delicateness of her feathers offer dedicated insulation as the only means of nurturing life.
Hatchlings simply pierce these temporary forms from within when they’re ready to leave the egg, which is discarded once the edible portions are savoured, thus ridding the apartment of the unnecessary clutter that threatens Modernism’s purity.
Deeply committed to the monochrome, the Falcon makes only one accommodation toward the artistic: a pair of Ash Keating style pieces at either end of the space—durational works created haphazardly by a creature who happily shits where she murders where she nurtures where she sleeps where she eats.
Owing to its exclusive location, the 367 Collins rooftop apartment remains one of Australia’s only great architectural achievements yet to be photographed by John Gollings. Yet despite this exclusivity, the Falcon and her lifetime lover welcome our intrusion into their crapulent lifestyle. Theirs is a rampant exhibitionism; unsatisfied with the performance potential of striking prey mid-flight, since 2016 the Falcon has invited the public into her home indiscriminately, via a webcam whose service she outsources to Mirvac.
The property giant, whose company vision invites us to ‘reimagine urban life’, leverages the kink value of the Falcon’s inaccessible lifestyle across their public engagement, although it is unclear at this stage whether this service is to be made available on a commercial basis across their residential offerings, or remain responsive to more discreet approaches.
Until each new spring’s hatchlings are ready to fly, they too join in the family’s immodesty, openly performing their haplessly befeathered clumsiness in complete obliviousness—both to the perilous drop from a home whose design has no tolerance for the more inelegant safety mandates of Victoria’s building code, and also to the camera itself.
Viewed from the Falcon’s perspective, the camera is the home’s most unique feature, panning every now and again across the Melbourne skyline with sensational views for her unseen guests—a reverse panopticon with the prey in the dominant viewing position. In the context of what tends to flood the one-bedroom market, this architectural feature distinguishes an apartment that has frequently been derided most ungenerously by other critics as ‘just a box’, giving it instead the ominous yet thoroughly respectable style of a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece.
Confirming her devotion to the Modernist project across her decades at this exclusive location, the Falcon has made only one major structural change to the apartment. After 28 years as a devotee of woodcraft, the Falcon commissioned her trusted adviser Dr Victor Hurley of the Victorian Peregrine Project to introduce the current metal form, which he installed last year at great personal risk.
For a committed nester with a highly dynamic lifestyle, this has been a sound investment. The architecture remains modular, low maintenance and readily replicable, obviating the need for additional bedrooms, noisy plumbing or obtrusive security systems.
Here at the top of the Melbourne food chain, and with no local predators, the Falcon leads in the live-work space. Utilitarian typologies are of renewed interest in our work-from-home era; lockdown or no, the Falcon flagrantly broadcasts her every virtue and vice to spite the cut-throat penthouse apartment market.
Because there’s one way to secure a home like this in Melbourne—and it’s murder.
Esther Anatolitis is a locked-down, flightless, childless Melbourne-based writer who enjoys living vicariously through the fastest creature on the planet. Her architecture and design critique has been published in ArchitectureAU, Artichoke, Artlink, Assemble Papers and Houses.