by Neometro
 

Exemplary Apartment Design

Architecture - by Open Journal
  • Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

On the 17th of May, the Robin Boyd Foundation held their Exemplary Apartments Open Day celebrating the best of Melbourne apartment design. Ten apartments opened their doors across Melbourne from Robin Boyd’s renowned Domain Park, to Nonda Katsalidis’ Melbourne Terrace, to Breathe Architecture’s The Commons in Brunswick. Clare McAllister, Design Director of MA Architects introduced the day’s program with her piece ‘Good Quality Apartment Design’ which is featured below:

 

European immigrants arriving in Melbourne during the early to mid 20C often made apartment living their first choice, preferring the convenience and sense of community this form of housing provided. This predilection is reflected in the high quality design of apartments dating from this era. In more recent times, apartments have been seen as transitory accommodation, somewhere to live while young before moving on to a detached home in the suburbs.

 

With house prices rising out of the reach of many there is a renewed demand for apartment living as a long-term option. Inner city apartments also offer close proximity to public transport and a diversity and intensity of activities. So apartments are, once again, becoming a ‘first choice’.

 

Unfortunately much of the apartment stock currently being built suffers from both poor design and ordinary construction standards, resulting in bad press for apartment living (‘Fears raised of apartments slums’, Sunday Age 03 May 2015) and ongoing debates about the need in Victoria for mandatory Good Design Guidelines for apartments.

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

Cairo Flats. Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

Quality apartment design requires us to look beyond apartments as short term options and think of them as ‘small houses in the sky’, providing all the functionality and liveability of a house, albeit within a smaller footprint. Good quality apartments should achieve the same benchmarks as any other form of good quality housing i.e good orientation, daylight and natural ventilation; access to some form of useable outdoor space; and a level of adaptability.

 

Thinking of apartments as small houses doesn’t necessarily mean that bigger apartments are better, and setting minimum apartment sizes does not guarantee a good design outcome. What is critical is well considered internal planning to ensure the best possible use is made of the space available. For example, a compact apartment with higher ceilings and appropriate glazing will provide a much better level of internal amenity than will be achieved by simply adding extra floor area to a ‘standard’ apartment. And ensuring the second bedroom is large enough to accommodate a queen-size bed opens up opportunities for sharing the rent or mortgage, offering a greater level of flexibility and affordability.

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

126 Walsh Street. Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

Good apartment design is also in the detail. In a well-designed compact apartment the kitchen may be stripped back to the bare essentials (fridge, sink, cooktop, oven, somewhere to store food, plates and pots) but it is still ‘useable’ – not everybody likes (or can afford) to eat out every night. And well-designed apartments recognise that – like all homeowners – apartment dwellers have ‘stuff’ and need a variety of storage options to stay organised.

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

To this list of good design criteria for apartments we can also add engendering a sense of community. In larger buildings this can be supported by well considered communal facilities including roof top gardens and other shared amenities. It can also be achieved in a more modest way by providing access corridors and stairs with good natural light (and ventilation) and enough width to allow people to stop and have a chat with their neighbours.

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

Finally, good quality apartments are not just about providing amenity for the residents. In many ways the design of an apartment building at street level is more critical than the design of any other part of the project. Buildings that support and encourage an active street life not only help create safer and more vital environs for residents and the wider community, they also provide connectivity and a better ‘fit’ into a local neighbourhood.

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

Robin Boyd Foundation Exemplary Apartments Tour. Photography: Annabel Reid

The Robin Boyd Foundation for Design continues the work and spirit of Robin Boyd through an active, innovative and ongoing series of public learning programs developed to increase individual and community awareness, understanding and participation in design.

You can visit Robin Boyd’s iconic home on Walsh Street, South Yarra via a variety of events produced by the foundation.

Words: Clare McAllister, Design Director at MA Architects

Photography: Annabel Reid

 

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