42 Apartments in Sydney
The city of Sydney, like other Australian cities, has expanded over the last century following the garden city model of urban development, even though for some decades architects and urban planners have been fully aware of the problems inherent in this model. It is most likely that the arrival of the garden city to Australia was due not so much to its creator, the British urban planner Ebenezer Howard—whose influence could be easily established based on the colonial ties that link the United Kingdom to Australia—but rather to Walter Burley Griffin, who had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright during his Prairie House period, when he won the competition for the new capital Canberra. Until that point, both Australian architecture and urban design followed the models of the dense European city and more specifically the English Victorian model. This has resulted in a city with an extremely dense and even over-saturated centre, surrounded by low density suburbs that extend some 30 km to the north and south and some 70 km to the west. This has led to an excessively low population density, some 400 people per square kilometre, resulting in problems in energy use, travel times, quality of transport infrastructure—which in some places is oversubscribed or insufficient—the lack of urban spaces that generate urban activity, car dependence, and possibly the worst outcome, the emergence of several generations of citizens who are not sufficiently conscious of the defects of this type of urbanism and whose vision of an ideal life revolves around a house with a garden. Making matters worse, the division of the metropolitan area into several dozen town councils, with independent urban planning departments, hinders the creation of a global vision and plan for the city.
The only noteworthy changes from this model begin to emerge in the 1970's, although there were some earlier examples. The standard detached single family dwellings were replaced—sometimes in entire neighbourhoods, sometimes in single structures—by small detached residential buildings of three to five stories. It is almost as if the single family dwellings had been scaled up in size, the urban structure remained the same, but with increased density. The fabric continues to be solely residential, deprived of the activities that could generate urban life, and so the problems noted above not only remain unresolved, but actually increase, in particular those related to congestion of traffic flows. In parallel to this, "greenness" has become the main focus for some city officials, who measure sustainability and urban quality only on the basis of the amount of vegetation surrounding each building.
This is the general pattern throughout the city, with the exception of the financial district and some areas where the urban model that existed before the arrival of the garden city has endured, with city block , corridor street (rue corridor), two to three storey structures, and in some cases, shops on the ground floor.
The site is located in one of the city's multiple suburban town councils, more than an hour away, both by train and car—and more during rush hour—from the centre of Sydney. This project is one of those instances in which the urban structure of single family dwellings is changing to one with higher scale residential buildings, propelled by the change of urban regulations and the property bubble. In this area density can potentially increase by a factor of 15. As noted previously, no changes are proposed to the structure of the urban fabric, or to zoning, as it remains completely residential. The new site is a result of the consolidation of the old sites. The creation of city blocks is not permitted, and buildings must remain detached and surrounded by vegetation.
The site is result of the grouping of three lots—of about 550 square meters each—. In other words, 42 families will now live in the space previously occupied by three. The constraints are: ground floor + four storeys + last storey setback and boundary setbacks that define a detached structure.
The effect of modern speculative building has resulted in, across practically the entire city, architecture that is defined by a myriad of forms, colours and materials, unsupported by any type of guiding principle or idea and is instead purely arbitrary. This has now become a trend to be relentlessly repeated. Consequently, our design for the building has been guided by the principles of serenity, simplicity, discretion and rhythm. The result is a sober and elegant façade that uses materials subtly.
Residential + Parking (5,500m²)