Looking at the Bigger Picture

The Commons, an award-winning development in Brunswick, Melbourne, by Breathe Architecture, created a ‘paradigm shift’ in the architectural world. Rather than pokey high-rise apartments that have become synonymous with inner-city living, The Commons provided an alternative and more affordable solution. And rather than being developer-driven, profits were ploughed back into the community-style apartments.

Following the success of The Commons, Nightingale One, directly opposite, also by Breathe Architecture, will transform the neighbourhood. And a little further out, Station Street in Fairfield, will feature Nightingale Two by award-winning architects Six Degrees. Currently in the planning stage, these 20 one, two and three-bedroom apartments in a low-rise building will build on Breathe Architecture’s initial principles: no off-street car parking, a vegetable garden on the roof and communal facilities, including a café at ground level.

With a customer database of clients looking for well-designed, affordable and considerably more generously-sized apartments, Nightingale Two will appeal to younger buyers who have until now, been frustrated in finding a suitable apartments. “There are no developers involved or real estate agents. These apartments will be selling for the same price as comparable-sized apartments on the market,” says architect James Legge, director of Six Degrees. Legge also points out that the return to the initial investors, on this model of apartments is capped and that any profit made in the process is put back into the Nightingale Two community of residents.

“Breathe Architecture’s The Commons was obviously a precursor to the Nightingale developments. But our model is the same, with architects, rather than a developer, driving the design,” says Legge, who feels compromises are often made by developers looking to widen the profit margin in each project. Six Degrees has also considered what people on their database actually want in an apartment, rather than the spiel often dished out by real estate agents.

“You’ll often hear that one car space per apartment is essential and more than one bathroom preferred. But if you have less bathrooms and a larger kitchen and living area, isn’t that more preferable?” says Legge. “There’s also no display suite that adds to the cost,” he says. Likewise, being a stone’s throw from Fairfield railway station also negates the need for off-street car parking. “We’re looking at a ‘green travel plan’. Why would you need to provide a car space when you have the railway station on your doorstep?” asks Legge.

Expected for completion in 2017, Nightingale Two, will be followed by Nightingale Three by Austin Maynard Architects, located in Brunswick. While this new housing vision isn’t ‘giving away housing’ to the less fortunate, it is making an enormous difference for those wanting to stay in the inner-city, but have found the housing options to be few and far between. “We’re not simply cutting costs to create more profit. It’s about making a difference to people’s lives,” adds Legge.

About the Author: Stephen Crafti

Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990s and is a regular contributor to DesignBUILD. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of writing about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.