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Creating a new typology: No. 108 Fitzroy

108 Leicester Street is a collection of eight multi-level Fitzroy townhouses that have been designed to respond to the changing face of multi-residential living in Melbourne.

The hybrid inner-city dwellings combine developer/builder FOURSQ with Melbourne firm BKK Architects. The design acknowledges the housing typologies of the development's Fitzroy neighbourhood with unique identities to its primary street frontages.

Along Young Street a contemporary response to the traditional Victorian terraces is evident, while on Leicester Street a re-imagining of archetypal warehouse conversions is the key driver. Additionally the new built form provides a strong formal gesture to the site's corner, drawing on the qualities of local civic landmarks.

No. 108's materials reference its local context. Image courtesy FOURSQ

The exploration of various design typologies is not just limited to the exterior. The interiors employ concrete as both a feature of the ceilings and in the stairwells of each residence with the integration of timber and brass, which draw on the industrial history of the local neighbourhood.

Each of the 6.6-star average energy rated townhouses offer large, flexible floorplans of 152-232 square metres over 4-5 levels, and feature a private lift, 3m ceilings and separate roof terraces which offer views towards the city and the Dandenong Ranges.

Designed with flexibility in mind, four of the townhouses offer the option of using their ground level as a second living area, extra bedroom, home office or media room. All townhouses have two bedrooms – each with their own private level and en suite, with some opening to a balcony. The open plan living areas feature concrete ceilings, expansive glazing and bespoke screens to the stairwell made of Victorian Ash and brass woven mesh.

The outdoor roof terraces have been designed with space for outdoor cooking, dining and living featuring a Tait Tilt Outdoor Kitchen and barbecue with roasting hood. Five townhouses have Young or Leicester Street frontages and access while three are entered via the internal garden courtyard which features timbers recycled from the site’s original warehouse.

No. 108 rooftop terraces with a city backdrop. Image courtesy FOURSQ

A collection of eight luxury, 4-level, vertical dwellings. The project draws upon the local character and various dwelling typologies to create a new type of housing for this gritty, inner-city suburb of Melbourne.

High levels of environmental design, vertical green spaces and extra-large dwellings are clustered around a tranquil courtyard garden. Every aspect of this project is considered in detail to achieve a benchmark well beyond the standard.

BKK Architects

Urban Melbourne recently sat down with BKK director Simon Knott at the on-site display suite to discuss the design of the project, and its response to its context.

Knott described No. 108's conception as "a highly collaborative process between FOURSQ and BKK". FOURSQ engaged BKK to develop a design for a townhouse-style development that was more unique to what was on the market. BKK pushed and pulled the massing around the site from which the idea of developing a typology that was primarily a house within the envelope of what would otherwise be an apartment building.

No. 108, says Knott, has been designed to be at the forefront of a shift in the market away from investor stock towards a more owner occupier driven product - essentially eight high end houses on the site that are extremely well pointed and have a great amount of detail and craftsmanship to them.

One thing that is not quite so obvious to other people when they see the end product is the time taken to develop the design. According to Knott, BKK have explained to clients that they’re not paying for inspiration necessarily, but rather good design which takes time; the more time spent on the drawing board, the better the outcome and overall the process on No. 108 has been an exhaustive one.

There is a real desire out there for these high end homes in a really good location near the city. They’ve got everything within them – 2 car parks that are in a stacker which people are pretty comfortable with now. Five have their own street address and the other three have entries off the internal courtyard.

We wanted the design to be a contextual reinterpretation – something that looked like it came out of Fitzroy – with elements of the old warehouse that is onsite and using brick that’s typical to Fitzroy.

Then this idea of marking the corner with a really significant corner element. Something which referenced the Victorian Terrace home and then this more industrial warehouse feel out the back and finally mitigated with this central courtyard space which is a semi-public space that services the three townhouses sitting within it.

All the townhouses have been designed with dual aspect and cross ventilation throughout.

The way we approached the design was how we would start to look at apartment design then quickly realised through discussions with Tom from FOURSQ that it’s actually houses that we’ were designing here. And that’s similar to JCB, Six Degrees and even Clare Cousins now – we all have a background in housing rather than typically commercial apartment design.

I think it’s wrong to think of the homes at 108 as townhouses… they’re something else. They’re kind of a new typology of housing and each one is slightly different. There’s a couple that are similar – two on Young Street and two on the courtyard that are similar. But I think the opportunity for someone to have something where they have their own front door in this location and feel a lot more like they're in a home.

The bedrooms are more like 4m x 5m rather than 3m x 3m. The design was very much about trying to get a level of craftsmanship through rather than something manufactured and polished and that’s a hard balance to get right – you don’t want it too look like a shabby, half cooked idea. Something a lot more refined.

Simon Knott, Director, BKK Architects

Construction of No. 108 is anticipated to start by early 2017 with completion in late 2017.

5 comments

3000's picture

Thumbs up from me.

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theboynoodle's picture

There's a really nice mix of old and new styles around this part of Fitzroy, which blend together really well both amongst themselves and in Fitzroy in general. At first glance this looks like exactly the sort of design that will add to that dynamic.

I'm very critical of the design quality of so much medium density stuff around Melbourne - but Fitzroy seems to have managed to fare reasonably well so far. I'm not sure why that is. I can't imagine that architects and developers, overall, have any greater respect for, or understanding of, the aesthetic of Fitzroy over and above (say) Brunswick or Richmond. Perhaps it's simply that Fitzroy is further along the gentrification curve and so able to attract those looking to develop to a higher standard and/or simply doesn't have the sites that would appeal to those building the rubbish seen elsewhere?

Heck.. you only have to cross the road at Smith Street, putting yourself a few meters outside of Fitzroy, to see some of the worst examples of modern mid-density architecture around.

Well done to the architects here^. It looks like they 'get it'.

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Bilby's picture

This well known development (built in the 1990s) on the corner of Young and Argyle Streets nearby in Ftizroy was in some ways the forerunner of this typology in the area:

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theboynoodle's picture

Ha. I live in the (largely ugly, but that's not my fault) building opposite.. so that's what I see when I step outside every morning. I'd forgotten what it looked like before being decorated.

But yes, Young Street has a lot of variations on this theme and it really works well. It feels like a light industrial zone that's been colonized for residential - even though a lot of the buildings are purpose-built as resi.

It shows it can be done. So I don't know what the excuse is for not even trying elsewhere.

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Matthew Ford's picture

A bit brutalist for my liking - not really a Fitzroy aesthetic from someone who's lived there for the better part of 30 years - but I understand that's a personal preference. Amusing though how this advertorial, regurgitating the PR from the architects, postures as a comment on "urban Melbourne". It's just product placement to get the sales moving ...

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