by Neometro

Liveable Air Rights

Architecture - by Open Journal
  • Photo: Derek Swalwell

From the archive: 231 Smith St by Neometro in collaboration with Grant Amon Architects and MA Architects for interiors, 2013.

The heritage building that once housed a Smith Street sex shop was the first structure in Fitzroy to have its ‘air rights’ developed. 231 Smith St sits within a new rooftop addition constructed in reclaimed air space above an existing heritage retail building.  The curved form of the new additions is expressed within the apartments, creating dramatic spaces.  The interior design complements the bold architectural expression, creating beautiful, liveable residences.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

The core philosophy for the project was creating apartments with all the functionality and liveability of a house, albeit within a smaller space.

A number of design strategies were employed to support this approach, including creating internal layouts that respond to differing outlooks from each apartment and provide a variety of floorplans. This ‘customisation’ (as opposed to standard repeating ‘cookie cutter’ floor plates) provides increased internal amenity.

Compact floor plans are spatially extended with higher than standard ceiling heights throughout. In addition, the external architecture has a ‘drum-like form’ which provided opportunities for lofty vaulted ceilings to the upper level apartments. Sliding screens separate bedrooms from living areas – providing privacy when required but allowing the spaces to visually and physically expand.  

Finally the apartments have been designed to incorporate a variety of storage solutions so that there is a ‘place for everything’. For example, in some apartments storage walls create entries, and all apartments have screened study areas or desk  ‘nooks’.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

The way we live in apartments is dramatically changing. Rather than being stop gap accommodation on the way to purchasing a house, apartments are becoming a long term housing option for inner city dwelling.  As a result the design of an apartment needs to provide high amenity for future occupants whilst maintaining a realistic construction budget.

To achieve this, a commitment is required between the developer and designer to ensure the design outcome is achievable and design intent maintained. 

Photo: Derek Swalwell

The project provides three levels of apartments, built within development air space above the heritage listed Panama House. The existing levels of Panama House contain hospitality and commercial space that needed to remain operational throughout construction. The new built form was designed to be recessive, maintaining the prominence and integrity of the existing heritage building below, and the surrounding streetscape.

The project brief called for compact, economical apartments with an emphasis on quality of space, live -ability and design integrity.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

The internal planning has been designed with emphasis on openness/spatial flow and consideration of sensitively isolating private and public zones by the use of screens and joinery items.  Spaces have also been designed for flexibility, allowing numerous internal planning options and furniture layouts.

Smaller bedrooms have been balanced against more generous living areas, high rolled ceilings and mansard windows. An emphasis has been placed on amenity and storage solutions than reflect contemporary living.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

231 Smith St exemplifies passive sustainability in an urban context through the repurposing of an existing building and the utilisation of development air space rights above.

The urban infill outcome provides occupants with high density, high quality housing close to existing amenities, services and infrastructure. Car spaces were not included in the development.  Provision of bicycle storage on each level offers occupants the versatility of undercover, secure bike parking.

Photo: Derek Swalwell

Internal layouts have been designed to maximise natural lighting and ventilation. The use of screens allow for maximum internal airflow reducing reliance on air-conditioning and, allowing the partitioning of space for efficient heating.

Materials in the design were specified for low maintenance and low embodied energy. Where possible, local Australian materials and suppliers have been selected (eg Spotted Gum engineered flooring, fabricated using locally sourced certified timber).

Gas boosted solar hot water employs a recirculating combined unit where residents only pay for what they use. Reduced water consumption is achieved though toilet flushing from collected rainwater. Energy efficient lighting further reduces energy use and running costs for inhabitants. Other practical sustainability initiatives that complement apartment living such as shared rooftop clothes drying facilities, communal barbeque and recreation space are also included.

Photo: Derek Swalwell


Search Open Journal

Subscribe to Open Journal:

Subscribe here

Connect with Open Journal: