ReHOUSING Conference

Following our success in winning first prize for the national competition “Building for Diversity”, we presented our mixed-use development project at the 2006 ReHOUSING Conference in Melbourne.

The competition sought to “provide an opportunity for architects to generate and test ideas for an affordable mixed-use development… (comprising) a variety of accommodation types, together with retail and commercial premises.”

As this was a one-stage ideas competition we worked quickly as a studio to develop the big idea and the visual language of the project.  In the absence of schemes of a similar type having been completed within the office, we relied on a kind of ‘conversational collage’ technique to describe the project to one another – like a hybrid of well known projects draped and inserted over the site.

We saw this conference as an opportunity to reflect on the references that were used as visual and verbal cues during the project and produce a secondary set of collages for discussion.

The site was located on the corner of Newcastle St and Zempilas Lane in Northbridge, Western Australia. An advertising campaign and large billboard on the site enthusiastically reports that “every corner of Northbridge is changing”! – although, to date, there has not been a lot of action on this or the adjoining sites.

It is worth noting that Northbridge has a certain mythology attached to it – as a vibrant multicultural centre , providing culture, entertainment and nightlife to Perth.  In reality this cosmopolitan quality is quite “patchy”. More recently large high end apartments have appeared and there is relatively little density or diversity on the street throughout most of the week. The competition brief asked that the project engender diversity and sustainability through the housing it provided.

Our scheme sought to address this perceived lack of diversity through  the provision of housing that allowed for a live/work model and the addition of communal and commercial spaces at street level. We attempted to attract a mix of creative and culturally diverse residents through these loose fit apartments.  This strategy can be broken down into 3 key moves: Parking and Garden, Tower and Apartments. It also addressed three themes of sustainability: economic, environmental and social/community.

Although we started with density as a strategy, we feel that the urban experience is not a simple by-product of density but that it is created by the arrangement of experiences. The proximity and intensity of public, private and semi public spaces can, for us, create an “urban” experience in as much as it affects how people interact, pass by and engage with one another.

For a full copy of the paper presented at the 2006 ReHousing Conference, please contact us at