The architectural concept is a fragmented perimeter form composed of two highly articulated buildings, a 'wedge' and 'edge' form, arranged around a triangular-shaped, north facing courtyard, which tapers to the north-west along Brennan Lane. The residential project is located on a triangular-shaped site in the 'hub' of Newtown, adjacent to Newtown rail station and King Street, with long distance views to the south over railway tracks. It has a small frontage to Erskineville Road and long northern frontage to the narrow Brennan Lane. The southern boundary, along the railway cutting, faces onto the tracks and platform of Newtown rail station. The site is prominent in the district and can be seen from Erskineville Road and across the railway tracks.
The site is constrained by a number of factors: noise from trains to the south and vehicles to the east; the small frontage to Erskineville Road; the height of existing terraces adjacent to Erskineville Road; limited access to the site for vehicles; constricted traffic movement along Brennan Lane; a bland and unsympathetic, commercial development to the north; exposure to cold southerly winds; and a vaguely defined, future development over the railway tracks.
The placement of building forms and grading of building heights from 4 to 6 storeys has been based on an urban design analysis of the site, adjoining buildings, spaces and streets. The overshadowing and three dimensional form of the building has been studied with extensive 3-D computer modeling, fly-through animation and ground level perspectives.
The project consists of 124, one and two storey apartments, in single and double storey layouts, and a street level café and shop. The apartments in the 'edge' building have been orientated with living areas and balconies to the noise protected and sun filled courtyard to the north. Bathrooms are located on the southern side as noise tolerant rooms to the trains. Secondary glazed balconies which capture the view are located on the more defensive southern side. The 'edge' building is organised with double storey apartments and access corridors to each second level, ensuring excellent solar and daylight access from the north.
The location and design of the central courtyard is fundamental to the organisation of the site, maintenance of the residential amenity and built form response to surrounding conditions. The north facing courtyard is generously landscaped with deciduous trees, paving and water elements to provide a protected oasis of amenity and outlook for the apartments.
The fragmented perimeter form and courtyard is accentuated by the placement, definition and expression of the buildings. The buildings’ character is varied and designed to respond to climate, street environment and noise reduction. In the ‘edge’ building, the closed defensible wall to the railway tracks of the southern elevation is contrasted with the open framed, northern elevation. This building is rational and gridded, organised around a access gallery circulation system on the southern face of the building. The northern elevation expresses the rational organisation of the cellular, apartment environment and generous, north facing balconies. The building appears to extend into the sun filled courtyard.
The 'wedge' building on Erskineville Road is developed as a thick, layered, urban street wall with extensive modelling and articulated balconies. It is punctuated with a large opening at ground level for the main entry and street based shops and café.
The buildings are finished in a combination of face brick, painted render over brickwork and painted, off-form concrete. The upper level is clad in light-weight, external plywood sheeting –‘Ecoply’. The distinctive, western red cedar, folding plantation shutters of the northern elevation of the ‘edge’ building provide sun control, privacy and extend the living areas onto the sun filled balconies. Bedroom balconies on the railway line are protected from train noise by projecting bay windows. Balustrades are varied and consist of pre-finished metal sheeting, vertical steel bars and painted, rendered solid masonry. The balustrades are designed for privacy and to accentuate the tectonic expression of the building.
Location: 3-13 Erskineville Road, Newtown, Sydney, Australia
Number storeys: 5-6
Site area: 5,742 sqm
Floor area: 11,484 sqm
Collaborators: McGregor and Partners Landscape Architects
Photography: Patrick Bingham-Hall, Brett Boardman
RAIA Architecture Award Residential, Finalist, 2002