Design excellence is central to apartment livability and longevity - say the experts

Design excellence is central to apartment livability and longevity - say the experts
Design excellence is central to apartment livability and longevity - say the experts

In the lead up to the Designing for Life panel discussion being held Wednesday 18 July, the expert panellists provide insight into the question -  how do we create apartments that will stand the test of time and nurture those who live within them?

Some of the country’s leading architects and developers will come together to address this issue and the effect of regulated design standards, during the panel discussion presented by Communications Collective, in partnership with Open House.

Architects Karen Alcock, Principal of MAArchitects, and Kerstin Thompson, principal of Kerstin Thompson Architects, will be joined by developers Kyle Reeve, development manager of ICON Developments, and Mike McCormack, co-director of Milieu to discuss key topics around design, from quality to supply and longevity.

Australia recognises the need to evolve towards lifelong apartment living to address problems of urban sprawl and population growth, and to create affordable and cohesive communities that provide for meaningful social interaction.

One important change in the market that the panellists recognise is the shift towards a more owner-occupier driven market. In response to these changing needs, the industry is creating spaces with a core focus on livability and longevity, according to Karen Alcock.

Kerstin Thompson points out that the design of every individual residential project has wider implications for the cities we are creating, and that providing diversity in the form of different housing typologies is one critical aspect.

Kyle Reeve believes flexibility over a lifetime could be built into developments, and is something which Australia might benefit from by looking at the United States and Europe’s approach to apartment ownership.

Mike McCormack, who is currently working on Breese Street, Brunswick with DKO and Breathe Architecture – believes good quality design can be achieved while still delivering on affordability.

There is general consensus among the panellists that both developers and architects working together to prioritise high quality design outcomes is beginning to become more common in response to market demand.

What they say

Design excellence is central to apartment livability and longevity - say the experts
Karen Alcock

We need to see apartments as long-term housing solutions, not just a commodity to be bought and sold.

We are also in a period of incredible growth and I think that the public are increasingly educated and understandably critical of the design that they purchase.

You can’t get away from the investment aspect of any house purchase; we focus on good design which we believe equals a good investment.

- Karen Alcock, Principal MAArchitects

Design excellence is central to apartment livability and longevity - say the experts
Kerstin Thompson

 Arguably, the aspect of residential buildings that is most instrumental in determining quality, both within and beyond the individual dwelling, is the building shell and in particular its typology. 

Developing or choosing a typology orchestrates the nature of the relationship between public, private and common space, between one household and the next. In designing for domestic bliss we are also inevitably forming the civic realm.

We need to provide for a greater range and invention among new housing types, to accommodate a greater range of demographics – not only young professionals but also families and the elderly – and support this mix with complementary programming and community infrastructure such as schools, meeting areas, co-working spaces and the like.

- Kerstin Thompson, Founder and Principal KTA

Design excellence is central to apartment livability and longevity - say the experts
Kyle Reeve

Historically, multi-residential developments have been about yield, costs and projects have been delivered simply to produce investment products not homes for people.

I think one of the most exciting trends right now is developers taking a more holistic view and considering who the occupant actually is. Intensive consultation and a greater emphasis on owner-occupiers are key trends here.

Your stages of life change so significantly that a single apartment might not be able to provide everything you need but you can have a well-designed building that does. It’s not uncommon in the United States for a person to move from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom and then, later in life, downsize to a one-bedroom – all in the same development.

People often say design is driven by architects, and I totally agree, however the decision-making authority ultimately sits with developers.

To create a strong partnership, the developer must really appreciate the architecture and the architect should understand the commercial constraints to ensure a great design outcome is achieved.

- Kyle Reeve, Development Manager of ICON Developments

Design excellence is central to apartment livability and longevity - say the experts
Mike McCormack

At the commencement of the design process we consider purchasers, who they will be and what they are likely to require and desire in their home. Our decisions are informed by our own experiences and also through detailed buyer engagement and feedback.

We invest in quality materials - inside and out - and finishes and fixtures that will last. This means our properties will wear in rather than wear out, and in turn hold their value and appreciate over time. We have experienced this through the few re-sale results of Milieu homes.

We are facilitating, encouraging and responding to consultation from an ever better informed market. For example, on our Breese Street project, through our design survey, buyers told us they didn’t necessarily need air conditioning as standard.

Therefore, instead we have adopted hydronic heating and ceiling fans as standard and offered AC as an option.

Listening to what purchasers desire allows us to focus on delivering homes that meets their needs now and into the future.

- Mike McCormack, Co-Director at Milieu

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir is one of the co-founders of Urban Melbourne. Laurence has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in both the private and public sector specialising in architecture, urban design and planning. He also has a keen interest in the built environment, cities and Star Wars.

Open House Communications Collective KTA MAArchitects Icon Developments Milieu


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