Littered amongst Australian cities there lies dormant a neglected building typology. Constructed in the late 1960’s and 1970’s the multi-storey red textured brick walk up unit buildings offered an idealised residential typology replacing the perceived cramped and dark terraces and semi detached houses of our inner city suburbs. Generally considered to be of little architectural merit due to their scale, negative streetscape impacts and unused open space, this project offers a more sustainable refurbishment alternative to the knock down and rebuild model, where the inherent character of the red textured brick is brought to value.
With minimal change to the existing “H” shaped building footprint, the 4 x 2 bedroom units in Sydney’s Newtown have been fully refurbished and upgraded to meet building code requirements and for potential strata subdivision. Internal planning changes relocate bedrooms spaces to the rear to create larger open plan living areas connecting to new side and front gardens and improve passive cross ventilation and aspect. New doors to the ground level units provide separate entries from the street more akin to semi detached houses.
External spaces have been landscaped to encourage street interaction with the community and blur the boundaries between public and private. The front garden includes a central entry courtyard with concrete seat and separate entries to the lobby and ground floor units. Flanking this are “street gardens” to the ground floor units. Side setbacks have been landscaped as private open space and the rear setback includes parking from the rear lane, access to the lobby and a central communal garden.
NSW AIA Jury citation:
This project demonstrates an approach to sustainability that explores the potential for adaptive reuse as a fundamental design strategy. The early decision to retain the existing fabric and to make changes only where necessary to improve the existing design is a hallmark of the scheme....
A genuine game-changer. Tucked down a local street in Sydney's Newtown we find a small multi-residential conversion with large implications.
Faced with possible total demolition of the existing building, here the architect was able to see beyond the massing and aesthetic of the building. With a light touch, the architect has introduced a series of smaller interventions and layer of detailed refinement not present in the original building. The result is a joyful response which gives a second life to a prolific Australian housing typology....
The architect has been skillful in carrying out minimal but decisive changes to relocate sleeping spaces to the rear, thereby creating larger open plan living areas connected to new side and front gardens, which improve cross ventilation and capture the north-east aspect. External spaces have been landscaped to encourage street interaction with the community and dissolve some of the boundaries between public and private.
The reconfiguration and overlay of detail simultaneously introduces a practicality and playfulness rarely seen in contemporary multi-residential projects. All this for a fraction of the cost of total rebuild, and all work was carried out as exempt development. It's a refreshing reminder of what is possible when thinking creatively.