The Commons, a multiresidential development of twenty-four apartments in Melbourne’s Brunswick, makes a contribution to interior design in Australia that exceeds its built form. Its contribution is as much due to the processes that produced it as it is to the leadership of the architects who initiated this design-led development. Breathe Architecture brought a deep understanding of the wider societal context and a conviction that the time was right to find a better solution to the challenges of sustainable urbanization.
The project was made viable by the paring back of features often considered inviolate in mainstream developments. This meant expenditure could be redirected to things that would support the building of a vibrant community and lessen the environmental impact.
The resulting apartments are complemented by rooftop spaces shared by the residents, including a laundry, apiary, community garden and generous gathering space with city views. Ground-floor spaces are designed to be shared with the neighbourhood. The sense of community has surprised and delighted apartment residents, who admit to happily changing their own behaviour in the interests of the collective.
As a housing model for the future based on affordability, liveability and sustainability, The Commons’ most significant contribution may well be to the city of Melbourne. It was designed to be replicable – a second development is underway, the IP has already been shared with thirty other architects, and the learnings are ongoing. There is currently a waitlist of almost 1000 prospective buyers.
The Commons is about sustainable urbanization – a replicable triple-bottom-line development. At its core, The Commons is about people. Its architecture serves as a catalyst to unite people of similar values and build a community. Breathe Architecture set out to build Australia’s flagship sustainable apartment project. It was to be a prototype, a testing ground, an example. Breathe Architecture’s hope was that it could reset the benchmark.
The design team left out carparks, airconditioning, second bathrooms, individual laundries, plasterboard ceilings, bathroom tiling and chrome plating. Instead, they gave space, height, thermal efficiency, double-glazing, generous decks, a shared laundry and rooftop gardens, solar hot water, hydronic heating and tiny utility bills.
The designers wanted to build a place that people wanted to live in, a place they would love, a place they would call home. The apartments are affordable, sustainable, generous, easy to live in and light filled. Residents know their neighbours and most have pets. The communal rooftop, with vegetable plots, shared laundry, washing line and barbecue spaces, ensures company is always at hand.
The Award for Interior Design Impact is supported by Business Interiors by Staples. The Australian Interior Design Awards are presented by the Design Institute of Australia and Artichoke magazine. For more images of this project, see the Australian Interior Design Awards gallery.