Charlie Woodward, builder, Highline apartments

I'd love to leave some landmark, iconic buildings ...

From City Hall and St John’s Cathedral to Brisbane Arcade and Newstead House, our city’s most iconic buildings have not only helped shaped the skyline but also our community and culture. Generation after generation have set foot in these landmarks, inspiring architects and builders to make their own creative marks on the city. One such local is Charlie Woodward, the builder and developer behind a new series of apartment buildings scattered throughout West End. Designed by Brisbane’s Noel Robinson Architects and Melbourne’s Hecker Guthrie, BPM’s third project Highline boasts sleek interiors, an innovative facade and fantastic communal entertaining areas. Before the 142-apartment building on Bank Street official launches with a street party on Saturday February 21, The Weekend Edition took five with Charlie to chat about the new project and his hopes for the Brisbane landscape.

You’ve worked on a number of iconic restaurant projects around Brisbane; what can you tell us about those?
I worked on Jellyfish Restaurant in 2011 after the flood, when there was seven foot of water through the whole place. We drove a bobcat through the centre of the building, picking mud up and throwing it into the river. The kitchen was completely trashed and the restaurant had to be redone, and we did it in four weeks. A year later, Matt Moran signed up to the tenancy next door and I was recommended for the job of Riverbar & Kitchen. They showed me their plans and I said we could do it in six weeks. They replied, “No, you’re joking! We’ve been doing pubs for 30 years in Sydney and we’ve never done anything in under 12 weeks.” I was about four days early and they were stoked. Riverbar was a great project; they couldn’t believe we pulled it off.

You’ve also helped create some gorgeous local homes for Brisbane residents …
In 2006, I worked on a project in St James Street, Highgate Hill. It’s a beautiful home; there were about 15 km of timber batons, which were all hand-nailed – it needed real skill for the execution. It was seriously stressful! Then a year later, I completed four houses at Dorchester Street in South Brisbane with local architect Richard Kirk.

What would you say has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on so far?
Escent in West End – now that’s a challenging project! We’re in the motions of building a three-level basement, but right now it’s just a big hole in the ground … It’s going well, but it’s probably the most challenging project I’ve ever done. The engineering of it is as difficult as construction gets, it’s amazing.

What’s one of the greatest lessons you’ve learnt in your career?
Too many! I don’t mind making mistakes, I just don’t like making them twice – that’s my rule.

In your latest project, you’ve partnered with BPM to create the Highline apartment building. How did that collaboration come about?
My development partner Jonathan Hallinan is the principal of BPM and we’ve been friends for over ten years – he actually first saw my work in the St James Street project. He was developing in Melbourne and kept trying to get me to move there to run his construction business, but I had my family in Brisbane and I didn’t want to leave. So eventually he said, “Well I’ve given up trying to get you to come down here, why don’t I come up to Brisbane and we’ll start doing developments up there?” And that was when we bought Onyx at 31 Bank Street in West End. We’ll complete that project this month – it’ll be our first one to finish. So then we looked for other sites in the area and managed to acquire a site down the other end of Bank Street, which will be Highline.

We’ve spied some great features on the building, like ridges on the facade and a rooftop pool. What excited you about the project?
Yes, the building has a lot of projections and blades to create shading, which will reduce heat load and make it cooler, as well as give the building a unique appearance. We’ll also have an infinity-edge pool facing out towards the eastern side, and a large barbecue and communal area on the rooftop, which will be great for entertaining. I worked closely with Noel Robinson Architects on generating the external façade and design of the building, and we worked with Melbourne interior-design studio Hecker Guthrie to stylise the floor plans, interiors and common areas.  

How would you describe your design philosophy?
Modern architecture is what we’re trying to create. We’re trying to get our buildings to create one sculptured form, rather than being made up of lots of balconies stacked on top of each other. Moving forward, that’s where our architecture is headed.

What’s next for you?
We’re working with Elenberg Fraser out of Melbourne on an apartment building project on Wickham Street. It’s a really space-age, modern-looking building, and it’s really raising the bar of what we’re doing. We’ve also got another apartment project at 27–29 Bank Street, next door to Onyx, which is in DA at the moment. And we’ve started doing the designs for an eight-storey building at 52 Sylvan Road, Toowong, opposite Wests Bulldogs Rugby Union Club.

What would you consider to be your career highlight so far? What are you most proud of?
I’m passionate about beautiful architecture, so I love the St James Street and Dorchester Street projects. I get a buzz out of doing commercial fit-outs like Jellyfish and Riverbar – just the speed at which we can do things gives me a buzz.

What do you hope will be your legacy, in terms of shaping Brisbane?
I’d like to have a whole lot of beautiful apartment buildings as my legacy. I’d really love to leave some landmark, iconic buildings.

Perk up … Hops Scotch & Beans, Petrie Terrace.
Dine … Gerard’s Bistro and Lost Boys, Fortitude Valley.
Catch-up … at mate’s houses.
Be inspired … by the architecture in Melbourne and all over the world. You’ve just got to find things you love …



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