The Hive Apartment
by ITN Architects


The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The facade of this Melbourne house for an architect and a street artist has built-in graffiti.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

Zvi Belling of ITN Architects asked local graffiti artist Prowla to come up with the design, which spells out 'HIVE' in wild-style lettering.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The precast, four-metre-high concrete letters are load-bearing and the facade has been fitted into the exposed brick shell of an old tailor's shop.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The angles of the letters determine some of the wall shapes and interior spaces. Gaps between letters create small windows which let light into unexpected places, while sliding panels conceal louvred ports for ventilating the rooms.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The interior is fitted out in a sci-fi style with sharp angles reflecting the arrows seen on the facade.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The apartment is the first in a series of "Hip Hop Buildings" designed by ITN Architects.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

Photographs are by Patrick Rodriguez and Zvi Belling.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

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The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

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Here's more information from the architects:

The Hive Apartment

Architect's statement

The Hive Apartment was designed by architect Zvi Belling of ITN Architects.This site was specifically selected for a graffiti/architecture project. The ideas in the building have been refined over time by the designer in prior competitions, publications and collaborations with street artists. The architect developed the project with his neighbour (aka Prowla), a respected old school Melbourne graffiti ‘writer’ who contributed the design of the graffiti letters.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The external precast concrete walls of the apartments are inscribed with these letters and other hip hop iconography. The graffiti relief panel spells HIVE written in ‘wild style’ with some initiation into the cultural codification of letters being required to decipher the words. These external geometries directly determine the interiors and have been extruded into living spaces in bulkheads and wall shapes.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

There are inherent tensions in the building where graffiti complete with spray drip effect has been created without any paint and an anti-establishment art form has been situated in an exclusive inner city residential suburb. These tensions are resolving over time as respect for the building spreads within the graffiti community and the local residents begin to claim ownership of their new street art. The outward presentation of robust public art fortifies the internal spaces into a calm refuge that is adorned with street art frames and canvasses. The notion of hive as home has been extracted from the facade and reappears through the fit-out in various guises.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The concrete relief façade containing shapes such as letters, arrows, swooshes and drips has been slotted into the exposed brickwork shell of an old Carlton tailor shop. It was important for the street art, graffiti in this case, to be essential to the experience of the building inside and out. The 4m high concrete letters are load bearing with the weight of all four stories transferring to the footing through the oversized letter ‘E’ and simultaneously creating a dramatic visual entry to the apartment. Similarly the punctuations in the facades allow interesting views and natural light opportunities within the habitable spaces.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

The graffiti letters were initially conceived of as a masonry element but through collaboration with Euro Precast, concrete was adopted for the façade and by extension as the structural system for the entire building. Logistical innovation was required to install the 4m high, 14 tonne load bearing 50mpa letter panels at the commencement of the construction program and protect these feature panels through the construction period. The architect and the graffiti artist were involved with the setup, concrete pour and delivery phases of the panel fabrication.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

Click above for larger image

The project was completed within $50K of the initial estimates. Working closely with the builder, while maintaining flexibility was the key to ensuring savings through the life of the project.

The project is the architect’s home and as such was an opportunity to experiment. There are concealed sliding panels revealing louvred ports for cross ventilating habitable rooms. There are unusual door arrangements to minimize temperature exchange between zones. Solar panels are located on the roof and a water storage tank has been installed below the car park area. Reusing available building fabric and designing small footprint high density living are significant environmental features of the development.

The Hive Apartment by ITN Architects

Click above for larger image

The new apartment is an intervention into the fabric of this Carlton block but through apparent contradiction seeks to knit itself into the existing building on the site to form an integrated new cultural type that exposes the history of the site with glimpses of period material and detail. An urban street is celebrated through the making permanent of an ephemeral art.

Architects: ITN Architects
Project Architect: Zvi Belling
Project Team: Silas Gibson; Jenny Cham; Atsushi Kubota
Graffiti Artist: Prowla - RDC Crew Melbourne
Builder: Kalitek Constructions
Engineer: Meyer Consulting Engineers
Building Surveyor: Building Strategies
Hex wall panel art: Enlai Hooi
Precast concrete: Euro Precast
Photographer: Patrick Rodriguez and Zvi Belling

Promotional summary

The Hive Graffiti Apartments is the first in a series of Hip Hop buildings designed by ITN Architects. It is a joint development by the architect Zvi Belling and ‘Prowla’ of the Rock Da City graffiti crew both of whom now reside in the building.

The principle construction material is concrete, the use of which has been lent to the larger than life graffiti relief façade complete with arrows, swooshes and drips which has been knitted into the brick shell of an old Carlton shop. The urban street is celebrated by making permanent an ephemeral art.

The notion of hive as home has been extracted from the facade and reappears through the fitout in various guises. The slightly sci-fi interiors over four levels are shaped by the arrows and expressive hip hop language of the façade, the remnants of the existing brickwork and are worked into very compact planning on a small site.

  • You have to be kidding me!!!! WTF

  • LOW

    It looks dated already…

  • Chris

    The interior looks like something out of a low budget sci-fi film. I won't even dignify the exterior with a response.

    • Domilly


      Exactly my thoughts. All the diffusers and bulkheads in the living room… This is why architects often don’t design their own houses.

  • H-J

    I didn't understand it until I remembered Federation Square.

  • Refreshing to see someone doing something different. This building makes a real statement unlike so many of the ‘white boxes’ we’re used to seeing. Well done!

    • Matt Olsen

      I agree – the development of architecture seems stunted by a conformity to 'taste' – I'm sure the architect is aware they'd be pushing some buttons with this.

  • wait til' the owner gets old…

  • Whats overlooked here is the milestone and uniqueness of this building. I’m no architect but an artist and sculptor who was part of the original NYC pioneering movement of graffiti style writing.

    Mind you given that the practicalities of creating living space and architectural construction are not my expertise I will address the value of having the facade embedded with a graffiti aesthetic.

    Graffiti as it has been termed is the application of a medium to a surface what this presents is a concept I initiated back in 1985 when I made the first graffiti sculptures out of metal and attached them to a building thus changing the conversation to what if it were a structure applied to a surface? Given the design nature of style writing and the formality of making it I find it naturally lends itself to modern architecture. We addressed blue print type designs before we executed, we considered composition and structure and in my case form in space.

    This is a milestone in that it was actualized and that it retained authentic language that is indeed functional and decorative. Graffiti artists over the past several years have flirted with architecture, ZEDZ and DELTA come to mind but this presents a stage in our genre with great potential for artists of the culture and those influenced by it to expand on the ideas we had set forth many years ago.

    I study architects as much as painters and sculpture with the ambition of creating something like this which speaks to the modern language of art and urban living.
    I have met former graffiti writers who are studying architecture if this is any indication of what innovation lays ahead I’m glad to have lived to have seen it.


    Carlos Mare
    Mare139 NYC

    • theo

      blessings mare 139,
      everyone has there own arrow…
      you and countless others have helped direct and sharpen mine.
      wayne c.o.d was out here in melbourne and gave him a tour, he got flix and we really had a deep convo bout our paths in graff and how it lead us here,what a small world,how the letters and arrows lived in our childhood and how we live in them now..
      peace and respect

    • Piece Bombs


      “Nah mare, with an E”

      LOL love Style wars! I’m organising a Urban Arts and Graffiti festival in my home town of Griffith NSW.

      PS: agree, this is a great attempt at mixing graff with architecture, you could call it urban art.

      Looks great from the outside. The inside is a little cold, but I guess that can be easily changed.

  • eL DubL

    As someone studying architecture next year and expressing myself through hip hop since a young age, this is exciting. No doubt it's not for everyone and certain elements I'm not super impressed by, but for me it's a spark of inspiration.

    These two art forms combining was inevitable, and I for one look forward to exploring the possibilities. Graff can be as elegant and diverse as any other form of expression and this is just a glimpse of one combination of styles.
    (Imagine a "wild style" exterior on a skyscraper? Yeowsers!)

    Grab a plan, put your man up and stand up.

    Game on.

    Burn City Represent.

  • Luke

    I would be very interested to see a photo a year from now after all the local "artists" have added their critique of the building, not on dezeen, but with a spray can on the facade

    • I would be very interested too. I doubt neither the architect nor graffiti writer is expecting this building to be an ending to the debate…

  • Bolweevil

    Have the built-ins been reinforced to handle the bass? I’d pay extra for this place.

  • I live near this building. It’s lame, real graffiti gets wiped off!!

  • Wow the world is filled with haters. If you don’t like the building or find it lame maybe you should try your hand at architecture. The architect had his own vision. In this world of conformity it is nice that someone tries their hand at self expression.

    Gosh you people make me sick. I love the building as I love Fed Square. I love people who take risk. Life isn’t always about succeeding sometimes it’s about ‘having a go’. I am not an architect or designer just a person who appreciates how hard it is to try something new.

  • scotty cam

    Just goes to show simple blocky lettering is the hardest to master. Hence why prowla sticks with the same old wild style he’s known for. Not saying wild style is easy but those letters are lame if you ask me. But you didn’t, so whatever…

    And advertising that you live in a graff fortress is also hella lame when you’re what, pushin 40 odd now?? Hip hop don’t stop. Beat street… style wars… etc etc.

  • Zaha

    This and Fed Square is simply too much for one city to bear.