The Assembly Apartments in the heart of Melbourne break the rules with urban living that’s sustainable, too
North Melbourne, Victoria
Cyclists leave the comfort of home to stretch their legs and get some fresh air, cycling through their building’s unique laneways (like alleyways but for cyclists and pedestrians only) and out into the action of Melbourne’s central business district. At the end of the day, residents take to the rooftop to catch up with neighbors or host friends.
As Melbourne continues to grow, builders and architects are faced with a challenge—how to responsibly respond to urban needs while ensuring livable, sustainable spaces. Assembly Apartments, completed in June 2016, offers all of this and more. The architecture firm of Woods Bagot designed the village-style community as a group of four buildings (the smallest of which has 20 apartments, the largest with 43) to create a sense of place on a site that once was home to a dilapidated redbrick, sawtooth warehouse. The industrial heritage of the area and the raw materials of the existing warehouse informed the selection of materials for the new buildings, according to Peter Miglis, principal at Woods Bagot.
While metal and concrete make up much of the design, you’ll find a touch of playfulness and an abundance of life here, too. Inside, light streams in through large picture windows and open spaces to complement the pared back, contemporary aesthetic. Light also filters into the apartments from the private European-style courtyard.
Each building incorporates metal and zinc cladding for a light industrial aesthetic. Inside, concrete gives residents “a greater sense of volume and space while allowing an insight into the structural integrity of the building,” Miglis says. The exposed concrete ceilings complement rich timber floors, while an open kitchen and living areas provide plenty of room.
All in the Details
Miglis says the residential buildings are meant to feel sculptural, with windows “punched” into the facade—a departure from a more typical approach in which windows are designed to maximize glazing. Windows were also arranged to balance solid insulation on the outside with a passively thermal-performing skin. A surrounding metal extrusion, varying in depth based on its orientation, protects from the sun.
Inside, residents have views that angle away from neighbors’ homes, while ground floor apartments have private lightwells that pierce into the building while maintaining privacy.
From a sustainable standpoint, the design also uses small floor plates to allow for more corner apartments, good cross-ventilation, and plentiful daylight. Lobby areas are naturally ventilated with windows and connect tenants to the world outside. Rainwater is captured via the angular roof forms providing irrigation to both the rooftop courtyards and landscaped laneways, while solar collectors provide pre-heated water to the hot water system.
Miglis says the Assembly Apartments project sets new standards for low-rise, multi-residential developments, from its low-rise scale to its comfortable community spaces and 4.5-meter laneways. No matter where you are, you have quick access to—and a beautiful view of—the city’s bustling activity.