Going Vertical with inner-city townhouses

Jul 9, 2018 Architecture

As the price of land heads north, so does the height of residential buildings. Where two storeys was once the norm, now it’s common to find homes with at least three levels.

‘Going vertical’ has taken off in many Australian cities, particular in the inner city where land costs are at a premium. For architects, this phenomenon is becoming more prevalent. “We are working on several vertical homes, mainly located two-to-three kilometres from the CBD. Many of these projects also have basement car parking which takes each home to four levels,” says architect Billy Kavellaris, director of KUD Architects.

North Melbourne ‘industrial’ townhouses

KUD Architects recently completed four three-level townhouses in North Melbourne. Located in an industrial area, these homes include terraces on the top floor that afford views of Melbourne’s skyline. Surrounded by warehouses, KUD’s townhouses pick up on the ‘language’ of the industrial locale, with concrete and recycled timber used inside and out. Timber armour panels also feature within the interior.

Each townhouse is approximately 150 square metres in area, with each one sharing a similar floor plan. At ground floor is a separate garage, a study (or third bedroom) together with a bathroom. On the first floor are two bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom. And on the top level, with its double height space, is the open plan kitchen, dining and living area, together with access to the outdoor terrace. Given there’s no lift, with stairs connecting the three levels, the take-up for these homes were young professionals rather than empty nesters wanting to scale down to be close to the city.

“We’re finding that people are ditching the Australian dream of the quarter acre block to be close to the city, and all the amenities this offers,” says Kavellaris, who sees the 35 square-metre terrace on the third level of these homes as more than sufficient outdoor space. “It’s no maintenance, rather than low maintenance,” he adds.

A three-level extension made from disused steel shipping containers

Photo credit: Tom Ross

NTF Architecture has also experienced a surge in interest in homes that are at least three levels. It recently extended a double-fronted Victorian terrace in Cremorne, Melbourne. Rather than the usual glass box added to the rear, NTF Architecture created a three-level extension made from disused steel shipping containers. Each level at the rear comprises two containers to allow for width.

While the period home contains two bedrooms and a formal living room, the vertical addition comprises kitchen at ground level, a study above and a main bedroom and ensuite on the top level. There was also sufficient room in the pocket-sized back yard for a terrace. “The use of shipping containers was a response to the home’s industrial context. But it was also a budgetary concern,” says architect Brett Nixon, co-director of the practice.

Photo credit: Tom Ross

Designed for a young couple, the Cremorne townhouse features a striking steel staircase that connects all the three levels in the new wing. “Going vertical allows for an efficient use of space. In this area, we were also mindful of maximising the city views,” says Nixon. Although young couples are attracted to this house typology, Nixon admits it certainly doesn’t appeal to empty nesters, the latter preferring a lift. The steel treads in the staircase of this home are also fairly narrow and steep, making it a problem for older clients.

NTF Architecture, as with KUD Architects, is designing more vertical-style abodes than five years ago. In many cases, NTF is using a basement level as an additional floor in these homes. But instead of giving this space over to cars, it is  locating a second living area here. “Planning regulations have spurred on this trend, given many areas restrict homes to nine metres in height with only two levels above ground permitted. The basement therefore becomes an option,” adds Nixon.

KUD Architects can be contacted on 9429 4733
NTF Architecture can be contacted on 9429 3200

About the Author: Stephen Crafti

Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990’s 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.

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