DKO comes to Erko

Erskineville, in Sydney’s inner-west, is home to a multitude of stories of the suburb’s urban renaissance. DKO’s Eve Apartments are here to write another chapter.

Few Sydney suburbs, whatever their enduring charms and assets, can lay claim to a nickname. Erskineville, or Erko as it’s more affectionately known, is one of the rare exceptions.

Well established by the 1880s as a true-blue working class community, it was home to small Victorian workers’ cottages and narrow-fronted row houses, accommodating brick makers, tanners, and market gardeners, sitting cheek-by-jowl with industry, brick pits, and tanneries.

While being proudly unpretentious for generations, it now faces change on an unprecedented scale. Within the coming decade, the suburb’s 17-hectare Ashmore Precinct – one of the largest designated urban renewal sites in NSW – will become home to an additional 6000 residents.

Few of the more recent additions to the area accommodate Erko’s rich village character and history, but the Eve Apartments by DKO Architecture and developers Fridcorp do something different.

DKO has used two L-shaped forms raised above street level (mitigating any flood-related issues) wrapped around a central courtyard to accommodate 197 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. One six-level form hugs the south and west-facing street frontages and accommodates the grand entrance; the other the north- and east-facing sides. Separating both are two visual and physical breaks to the north and south, creating transparency, street activation, and a reduction in the buildings’ mass. Seven glass-sided lift cores are strategically positioned to the same effect.

Externally, DKO has used a simple palette of materials to celebrate the industrial iconography of the area’s past – Bowral Blue bricks to anchor the building and define its perimeter, a cream Spanish brick to elevate it, copper for highlights, and pre-cast concrete in-between – all materials offering a good contextual fit, durability, and a sense of urbanity.

Most striking of all is the delightful use of brickwork at key moments, particularly on the building’s corners and the gracefully curved six-level sculptural entrance facing Eve and MacDonald Streets, the complex’s celebrated facade and defining feature.

Both bricks and curves are used in a powerfully contemporary way to speak evocatively and unequivocally of Erskineville’s past; of its simple yet beautiful railway arches and viaduct-like railway bridges (located a mere block away), the nearby iconic Sydney Park brick pit chimneys and kilns, and the architecture of many of the area’s well-established old hotels.

Landscaping has been carefully integrated to create a sense of a green retreat in the heart of the city. The central courtyard draws landscape into the buildings both vertically and horizontally. Vertical gardens push skyward from one courtyard-facing cantilevered balcony to the next, with all courtyard-facing elevations eventually becoming one large hanging garden. Externally, all stoops feature plantings and spaces for solo or communal gathering, with trees planted to further green the public domain.

To paraphrase the designers’ words, through judicious material selection and well considered form, this building has preserved those qualities that give identity to Erskineville while deftly responding to the needs of a new generation.

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