McIntyre Drive Social Housing, Altona by MGS Architects
Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing: Frederick Romberg Award
Australian Institute of Architects
McIntyre Drive Social Housing inserts high-density living into a suburban environment with verve, skill and serious social commitment – sixty-nine apartments provide independent living for residents with disabilities, along with communal spaces and gardens. The result is an inventive, exploratory engagement with a complex set of conditions, which makes welcoming, comfortable spaces for living.
The playful architectural expression alludes to ideals of “home” and domesticity, but also does a lot of “work” on multiple levels – creating volume and substantial private open spaces within the necessarily compact apartments, breaking down the mass and creating a sense of individual address, and mediating the scale of the development within its single-storey suburban setting. It also enjoys charming moments of ease and whimsy. One of the pleasures of the jury visit was a dog pushing its head through the architectural “picket fence” on cue.
Materials are robust, with an eye to long-term maintenance and in line with stringent state and Commonwealth requirements for public housing, but they also bring a sense of liveliness and specificity to the development.
The complex is designed to foster social interaction. Entry is via a central “piazza” edged by layered “pitched-roof” facades. This provides opportunities for interchange and meeting, along with good passive surveillance that helps to create a sense of safety, connection and community. The slightly unusual double foyer reduces scale, while the inevitable long corridors are detailed in a way that also seeks to ameliorate any institutional feeling.
The housing is highly responsive to its site and makes a strong urban contribution. The piazza provides a clear address and is carefully located on axis with the suburban street opposite. Formal play and spatial arrangement cleverly modulate the relationship of the three-storey building to its single-storey neighbours. Existing trees were kept and worked with. Vegetable patches and front yards add further amenity and connections with the suburban context.
All together, the result is a generous living environment for those experiencing disadvantage, and is superior to the quality often found in speculative commercial multiresidential developments.