In detail: 122-138 Roseneath Street, Clifton Hill

Laurence DragomirSeptember 30, 20150 min read

It's not often that a six-storey development in Clifton Hill comes along and excites us, but 122-138 Roseneath Street does just that.

To be delivered by development partners Wulff Projects, Icon Co and Assemble the proposal promises to deliver a design outcome and community focused development on par with Six Degrees' Heller Street development. Designed by Assemble's design team, the proposal replaces an earlier approved scheme for the site by ROTHELOWMAN which came with the site purchase.

Located within a pocket of Clifton Hill with immense redevelopment potential, the site comprises a large warehouse and office building complex with a notable and distinct Brutalist office building. The proposed development has a primary northern frontage along Roseneath Street and is flanked by a mix of commercial and residential buildings.

The proposed design consists of three main forms that are oriented in a north-south alignment through the site, separated by two sets of landscaped communal walkways accessed via a series of cascading steps, which raise the ground plane above a single-storey podium resulting in open and accessible yet semi-private alcoves for resident access.

This responds to the site's immediate context which features built form arranged in a similar manner, reinforcing the development's considered approach in its position within the street. Additionally these north-south thoroughfares provide solar access and amenity to dwellings resulting in residences with dual aspects.

In detail: 122-138 Roseneath Street, Clifton Hill
Concept diagram courtesy of Assemble.

The podium gives way to three and four-storey townhouse buildings on both sides, and a tiered six-storey apartment building in the centre. The podium beneath the central volume provides a retail streetscape interface that engages with Roseneath Street, with the retail tenancy envisaged to be occupied by a grocer with a cafe element.

The central building has been designed to be a "highly articulated sculptural building" that recedes back into the site as it rises from the street resulting in highly recessive upper forms and a street edge of a human scale.

The choice of materials is a subtle reference to the existing Brutalist building and draws upon the tactile nature of other buildings in the local area resulting in a soft and neutral material palette. Existing building elements have been retained in the podium to the west with the project team citing the offices of Clare Cousins as an inspiration for retention of the Brutalist elements in addition to the structural capability of the existing structure to accommodate additional levels.

In detail: 122-138 Roseneath Street, Clifton Hill
Existing and proposed including retained Brutalist elements.

As previously stated the ground level includes retail and café tenancies, allowing for a high level of active frontage along Roseneath Street which has been achieved via the strategic placement of services and car park entry.

Street level improvements further help to create a sensitive interface between retail and pedestrian streetscape, these include the sculptural concrete balconies and generous setbacks at the ground floor which create an open undercover pedestrian space.

The design also features activated vertical circulation by incorporating open external staircases which are animated by the vertical movement and transitioning of residents through the building, a welcome departure from static concrete isolated fire stairs. Sliding shutters add a further layer of movement to what could have easily been an otherwise static facade. This also has the added benefit of creating a dynamic climate responsive operable skin.

Coupled with the internal layouts this also allows for flexibility of the internal/external spaces, with the opportunity to increase the living area while maintaining privacy to the residence should the occupier so desire it.

The proposed building is a highly site responsive design with a strong sustainability, quality and community focus. The design is driven by fundamental principles including a strong emphasis on internal amenity, privacy, light and air access, equitable views lines, and communal facilities. Diversity of apartment types offers future owners and occupiers a wider variety of lifestyle options, catering to diverse community needs. The diverse housing options include studios; 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments; and 3 and 4 bedroom townhouses.

Large internal and external communal areas, including landscaped terrace spaces and a generous north-facing community room encourage engagement between neighbours and soften the transition between public streetscape and semi-private shared circulation. Significant communal landscaped terrace spaces that occupy roughly one third of the site are accessible from the street below.

The project is conceived as an exemplar of contextually sensitive, high quality design and sustainable apartment living.

Assemble Design Report, June 29 2015

Another noteworthy aspect of the project is the development team's desire to engage in a community consultation process to ensure Roseneath Street is embraced by the local community and a project it can be proud of and reflects Assemble's commitment to early engagement with the community and councils.

The town planning application for 122 Roseneath Street has been significantly influenced by lengthy consultation with nearby residents and The City of Yarra. Through this consultation, the team has made a range of design changes to enhance the development, respond to ideas and suggestions, and to improve interface conditions.


Often easily overlooked externally in favour of a cheaper construct it's generally the materiality of boutique developments such as Roseneath Street which set it apart from the more investor-driven product. Overall the proposal from a material sense is all about texture favouring materials which are more robust and require minimal maintenance for residents.

Employing the use of timber boards and battens to form screens, fences and soffits provides a softer and warmer contrast to the cooler, robust and brutal concrete and metal elements. The precast concrete panels of both the ribbed and smooth variety respond to the Brutalist offices currently on site while the white and charcoal bricks respond to the vernacular of the area's existing housing stock.

Key project features

  • No borrowed light to apartments
  • Diversity of housing types and sizes ranging from studios; 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments; and 3 and 4 bedroom townhouses
  • Strong sustainability and community design focus
  • Highly articulated sculptural form
  • Considered building response to existing and future context
  • Large internal and external communal areas including significant landscaped terrace spaces
  • Dynamic operable climate responsive facades
  • Activated vertical circulation
  • Sensitive retail streetscape interface
  • Street level improvements
  • Communal areas include workshop/bike repair station and multi-purpose room
  • Purchaser options for electric car charge points
  • Scooter parking provision
  • Ratio of more than 1 bike space per dwelling
  • Generous North-facing community room with common kitchen and dining facilities, and outdoor terrace
  • High quality, owner-occupier focused design

Project team

  • Developer Partners: Wulff Projects, Icon Co, Assemble
  • Architect: Assemble
  • Landscape Architect: MALA

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.
Clifton Hill
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