Anything is Possible: Inside Schiavello's Prima Tower

Words by Jessica Capolupo - first published in Details magazine in 2016 to celebrate Schiavello's 50th anniversary.

In 1966 Tony Schiavello was making office partitions. Less than 50 years later, Schiavello is behind one of Australia’ s finest multi - residential developments. Discover how Prima Tower rises to the occasion.

It’s a picture-perfect summer’s afternoon in Melbourne. St Kilda beach is buzzing with activity, tennis lovers are soaking up the atmosphere at the Australian Open and blue skies are stretching as far as the Dandenong ranges. For Prima Tower residents – who have a bird’s-eye view of the city from an infinity-edge swimming pool on level 67 – the panoramic view is a breathtaking backdrop to a leisurely swim.

Glistening in the sunlight like a bronzed sunbaker, Prima Tower is Schiavello and PDG’s latest joint property development venture. Nestled on Queensbridge Street in the booming suburb of Southbank, it’s amidst the hustle and bustle of the city’s business, arts and entertainment precinct. Already touted an iconic landmark, its glamorous presence has quickly become a welcome addition to the city skyline, and its residents are already lapping up its six-star amenities.

For Schiavello, who first purchased the land in 1984 when Southbank was an industrial area, ‘going up’ was a natural progression for a business in the interior fitout and commercial furniture game. “Being in such close proximity to the Yarra River, Tony (Schiavello) knew Southbank was going to be something bigger. So, he didn’t just dream to build on the site; he knew it would one day happen,” recalls partner and younger brother, Joe Schiavello. It was a certainty that would take some 30 years to become a reality as Southbank underwent urban renewal.

“Our company motto has always been and always will be, that ‘anything is possible’. Prima Tower is testament to how far we have come.” says Tony Schiavello, Governing Director and Executive Chairman of the Schiavello Group. While prior forays into property development such as The Artist, Abode318 and Domain Lodge have proven successful for the company over the years, Prima Tower is by far the largest venture Schiavello has completed to date.


At 256 metres high, Prima Tower is one of Melbourne’s tallest buildings. But being tall wasn’t a priority in 2001 when plans to develop the site initiated. “With road infrastructure potentially impacting on the site’s south-west corner, initial designs by Ivan Rijavec presented to the Department of Infrastructure showcased exemplary design,” says Mr Schiavello.

In 2009, planning permits were obtained and Tony Schiavello agreed to undertake the development in joint venture with PDG. With the south-west corner no longer needed by Vic Roads, the tower was redesigned in collaboration with PDG’s in-house design studio Disegno Australia. What evolved was a 70-storey sleek and linear structure featuring a striking curved-glass facade that changes colour from bronze to gold pending the sunlight. Uniquely made up of 8,500 high-performance glass panels with superb thermal and acoustic properties, it floods residents with natural light.


“We didn’t want just another dark glass building, we wanted something warmer; a building that exceeded expectations, one of quality and importance,” says Mr Schiavello. With pencil and paper in hand, he describes how the tower gradually changes shape from a concave to a convex curve — a re-design to increase penthouse floor space.

Step inside and you are greeted with refined, urban living at its best. 661 apartments are uniquely customised to create individual homes to over 1000 residents. Offering an affordable opportunity to enter an exclusive address, apartments are split between the lowrise Pearl apartments on levels 10-35 and the high-rise Prima apartments on levels 36-66.

Pool interior

But it’s the two levels of six-star hotel-style amenities and leisure spaces designed by Bates Smart that makes this prestigious city residence a complete luxury lifestyle unlike no other in Melbourne. Offering quality and convenience for those with busy lives, level nine alone is home to a fully-equipped gymnasium, a 25-metre swimming pool, relaxation decks, spa, steam room, sauna and massage rooms. Then there’s the 17-seat cinema, high-tech virtual golf driving range, billiard room and meeting rooms. Coupled with an array of dining and entertaining options outside of one’s apartment and the amenity offering is truly an exercise in hotel and resort best practise.

For Prima residents, there are also premium facilities on level 67. Literally amongst the clouds, the exclusive ‘Sky Lounge’ is home to more than an infinity-edge swimming pool with panoramic views of the city. Supremely luxurious and spacious, residents can access their own sophisticated private bar, lounge and dining area, climate-controlled wine rooms, and spa and gymnasium facilities.

Sky lounge

Key to the tower’s success was joining forces with PDG and “choosing the right builder,” says Mr Schiavello. Brookfield Multiplex was not only appointed for the construction, but they delivered one of the fastest builds in Australian history for a tower of that magnitude. When construction began in April 2012, it was projected to take three years, but instead was completed 104 days ahead of schedule with one floor being built every four to five days.

Regional Managing Director of Brookfield Multiplex, Graham Milford-Cottam, notes that addressing climate conditions above level 50 – which at the time, was the normal height of existing projects – was crucial to construction. “Prima Tower is the third tallest completed tower in Australia. Therefore a construction methodology which took into account more prevalent winds above that height - which would affect tower crane and other plant operation - was essential.”

Mr Milford-Cottam adds that a collaborative relationship also played a big part. “Positive project outcomes were always at the forefront of all decision-making to ensure the quality and timely completion of the project, which ultimately and successfully was achieved.”

Exterior tower CU

While the project created 800 direct and indirect jobs, for Schiavello as a Group, Prima Tower showcases the breadth of which the company has expanded since its modest beginnings.

Stunning timber oak wall panelling, stone detailing and luxurious Sky Lounge joinery was carried out by Schiavello Construction, while the work of many of the Group’s subsidiaries can be seen throughout. There’s bathroom ware by Omvivo, furniture from MAP in addition to glass screens and mirrors by Heritage Glass. In conjunction with Schiavello’s metal fabricators Metcon, Heritage Glass also contributed expansive metal lacework floral wall hangings which make for a spectacular lobby arrival before being repeated in various locations across the building.

Penthouse interior
Bathroom interior

In February 2016, when Australia’s population reached the 24 million mark, it did so 17 years earlier than expected. And, as our nation continues to grow, creating multi-residential dwellings that not only serve investors, but one’s which put the quality of life of its residents first will become increasingly important. This ethos was at the very core of Prima Tower from inception. “A lot of developers promise the world to prospective buyers, however many fail to deliver,” says Mr Schiavello. “Prima Tower exceeded its expectations which is very unique. We really set a new standard in living.”

It’s that philosophy coupled with an acute attention to detail that makes Prima Tower world class. It’s the David Bromley artworks that hang in spacious, extra wide corridors. It’s the energy-efficient initiatives, like state-of-the art lifts, that garner the building a 7.1 energy rating. It’s the undeniably beautiful and liveable selection of finishes and materials.

Prima Tower is a modern icon that responds to the demands and desires of ever-changing lifestyles and one which positively shapes the future of living in this country. “It’s not simply just another place to live, but a complete lifestyle in itself,” says Mr Schiavello.

From building office partitions to developing a revolutionary gem in apartment living fifty years later, why, Prima Tower proves anything is possible.