388 Barkly Street is a distillation of the best practices of ethical architecture and a hopeful contribution to the field of design. Underpinning every detail and design decision is an understanding of nature’s crucial role in physical and mental health; a passionate belief that sustainability is absolutely paramount and an ethical approach to architecture that considers the environment, community and occupants.
During our research phase we questioned what is typically absent from apartments and present in family homes. We asked how an apartment could become a realistic alternative to the suburban home and a backdrop for the cherished experiences of family living. The interiors were designed to exude comfort and warmth, while small everyday moments like morning benchtop coffees and opening French doors to a terrace contribute to a homely feel. Each residence also features generous storage options cleverly integrated into the design, such as a bench-seats that double as storage and mud rooms at entrances.
Barkly Street is integrated with biophilic design strategies. The building has been carefully considered to strengthen residents’ connection with nature through an abundance of natural light sources, dynamic vegetation and unobstructed views to native planting. Many details are informed by an understanding of the benefits conferred by interacting with organic life, such as the sunken lush central atrium, planted light wells and operable windows that enable natural light and fresh air.
A key theme in the design process was the idea of doing less to give more. Exploring the concept of void spaces such as light wells, skylights, double height spaces and the central atrium allowed the designers to deliver more for the residents, though with less saleable floor area. Void spaces at different scales of the building bring light, vegetation and air circulation into the tight confines of the existing warehouse.
A human centered design approach led to the creation of diverse spatial experiences. The point of entry and central atrium create a sense of welcome that flows naturally into each subsequent space, while the internal façade of the heritage brick shell has a rhythm that subtly curtails the interior to human scale with a textured, tactile appearance. With collaboration as a key strength of the project, collaborations on locally made bespoke elements included to enhance everyday life, including distinctive hand- forged door handles by @rowsaan, a custom rain bench by @_bmdo and custom light fixtures by @ambiencelighting.
The project is a fossil fuel and gas free development powered by 100% green energy with a 30KW Plus Solar array on the roof and centralised heating and cooling. High performance glazing and operable windows contribute to occupier thermal comfort and further reduce energy use. The homes are crafted with ethically sourced materials selected for their durability and a reduction in VOC off-gassing and carbon footprint. Key details include FSC-certified timber, recycled content in insulation and plasterboard, and eschewing harmfully produced elements such as chromed fittings. 388 Barkly Street is due to begin construction in 2020. This is DREAMER's Case Study 04 and a research essay written about the project is available at https://www.dreamerlab.com.au/dreamerarchitectureprojects/388-barkly-street-apartments.
The client desired an ethical 11 Apartment development within an existing 1940s era brick warehouse. The project was to have minimal impact on the environment and a positive contribution to the urban realm and local neighbourhood.
The apartments were to be highly functional and comfortable, offering a realistic alternative to a detached house. Spaces should be created that help to facilitate connection to nature, with access to natural light, high ceilings and good ventilation.
In particular the client wanted to create comfort through warm and inviting spaces with places within the apartments for both sanctuary and social connection. Touches of the "handmade and human” had to be present, alongside materials that improve with age.
What were the key challenges?
Our ethical decision making process asked us to carefully consider the manufacturing, use and source of materials at every step of the way. This was time consuming and heavily research driven work.
Also requiring extensive research was the investigation and eventual distillation of the feeling and function of the suburban home and its use as a basis for apartment design.
We had to ensure at every step that the human experience had been considered in the design, that we were designing spaces that worked, that felt right and would create a backdrop for cherished memories.
All this coincided with a desire to retain as much of the existing brick warehouse (originally a textile factory) as possible. Due to the deep plan it was then tricky to ensure access to light and ventilation for all apartments. The challenge of working with the existing warehouse was also compounded by tight planning regulations.
What were the solutions?
We found that we needed a fully engaged team and an ethical decision making approach from inception to occupation to guide a close and collaborative process.
The project team worked extensively via a highly detailed digital model of the existing building to ensure we were designing appropriately around it and enabled us to restore it where possible.
To bring light, planting and ventilation into the deep warehouse spaces, voids were used at varying scales. This created a communal atrium as well as small internal moments that serve to connect the inhabitants with nature at all times. A meaningful connection between residents and nature was extensively driven via the implementation of Biophilic design principles.
In order to make the apartments feel like homes we introduced great storage, highly functional kitchens, lots of windows and extensive access to natural light. A collaboration with a number of local makers (@rowsaan, @_bmdo and @ambiencelighting) created 3 special moments on the journey from outside the building to within, adding a sense of craftsmanship and a human touch.
In accordance with the ethical decision making process, we removed or reduced, where possible, the use of high-embodied energy materials, such as steel, concrete, aluminum and porcelain. An extensive range of passive heating and cooling strategies were implemented as well as a large PV array, ensuring that 388 Barkly Street will be a fossil fuel and gas free development powered by 100% green energy.