Location: Carriageworks Way, Eveleigh NSW
Owner: City West Housing
Builder: Richard Crookes Construction
Landscape Architect: Arcadia Landscape Architecture
Structural Engineer: Enstruct
Bricklayer: Southern Cross Masonry
Photography: David Clare First Light Photography, Cameron Bloom Photography
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“JUST THE TICKET”
Affordable housing now arriving at Platform Apartments
With the ongoing gentrification of the inner city it is becoming ever harder for essential but lower paid workers – think police, teachers, childcare workers, nurses, retail staff and the like – to live within a reasonable commute of their work.
Platform Apartments in Eveleigh, a micro-suburb sandwiched between Redfern and Newtown, is a project of City West Housing, a non-profit charged with providing secure, affordable housing to people on low to moderate incomes who are working or living in the local area. CWH wholly financed this project off its balance sheet. Its funding comes from part of the Section 94 contributions by developers building in the city.
The site is on former railway workshops, part of which has been repurposed into the Carriageworks arts precinct. The lofty interiors of the old workshops are only exceeded by their gloriously-detailed brick exteriors, so typical of grand Victorian industrial architecture.
Brickwork is also the key material of Platform Apartments, referencing that of the heritage workshops “but complementing it by using a modern interpretation,” explains Brendan Randles of Architectus. “We were really interested in the culture of the place, that it’s a very hardy environment, a former industrial site.” The designers chose a dark colour brick to reference the heritage brickwork. “We wanted a building that you could look at, understand how it works, and which displays an honesty of materials.”
The apartments are the first to be built on the site following a masterplan approved in 2008. The accommodation comprises 88 units in studio, one, two and three bedroom configurations, some in duplexes at upper levels.
The building has two cores linked by an open, screened gallery on the southern side. While the original planning envelope specified a six-storey rectilinear box, one core is six storeys and the other seven. “We thought it was important to emphasise one end of the building with a slightly higher form to refer to its entry,” Randles explains. This also articulates what would otherwise be an amorphous mass into a tall tower core which contrasts with a longer core that with a greater expanse of brickwork with timber infill.
Unlike the massive loadbearing brick walls of the workshops, the brickwork here is a veneer, supported on shelf angles fixed to the reinforced concrete frame. “I like using brick,” says Randles. “For residential architecture it’s ideal. It’s a warm material, it is maintenance free, it’s hardy, and brings with it great potential for expression and technique. So brick is a favourite material.”
He believes many architects are attracted to brick because it is “a nice ‘silent’ material” that sits in the background and forms a simple, weather-resistant skin.
In some parts of Platform Apartments’ facades, the brickwork takes on an effortless quality. The re-entrant corner balconies suggest a weightlessness; they seem to hover. Perforated brickwork panels, aka hit-and- miss brickwork, enable light to penetrate and allow views out. “We like hit-and- miss because you continue the wall-like nature of the building but for a moment it breathes and allows dusk light in,” Randles considers. “It also allows you to look out while maintaining privacy.”
The massing of the brickwork is modified by the light-coloured slab edges and softened by dark grey steel hoods, clear anodised aluminium window frames, sliding timber screens on the western facade and fixed timber battens to the north.
The site carries substantial landscaping developed by Arcadia Landscape Architecture working in close collaboration with Architectus. A rooftop terrace, communal produce garden, garden rooms, and the open entry gallery help promote social interaction.
The rail influence is obvious and unavoidable. “You are right up against the rail tracks here and you can’t really escape that,” admits Mike Barnett, Arcadia’s co-principal. This has been turned to advantage by incorporating site-found objects such as ticket stamps that have been embedded in the paving, and repurposing old railway platform seats and light shades. A routering machine from the old workshops resides in the foyer.
The site has a slight fall to the rail yards and the landscape designers were constrained by issues such as drainage and weight due to the basement area located partially under the landscaping. Brick planters and seating reference back to the walling. Drainage is also vital in any planter box. The inner face of the brickwork is coated with a membrane and lined with drainage cells that ensure no water sits against the bricks. The brick benches forming casual seating are capped by large recycled timber beams.
“We were trying to create something that complemented the brickwork in the adjacent heritage workshops but has its own look and feel,” says Mike Barnett, “and I think these bricks really achieved that.”
The bricks chosen are premium-quality dry-pressed units from Bowral Bricks. Although cheaper bricks are available “as it turned out it was a very inexpensive project. The whole job was stunningly economical,” Brendan Randles says. “I think it is a very economical material and because it is low maintenance it’s great to use.”
City West Housing’s CEO, Janelle Goulding, said the development has changed people’s perspective of affordable housing. “The design and construction team have excelled themselves by exploring ways our tenants can get maximum comfort and flexibility whilst still being able to deliver a top-quality housing development,” she told Domain.
Platform Apartments was the winner of the 2015 UDIA NSW Awards for Excellence in the Affordable Development category, a finalist in the Commercial category of the 2015 Think Brick Awards, and a Silver award winner in the Landscape Design category of the 2015 Sydney Design Awards.
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