Melbourne Urban Design Meetup #3: The ethos and business model behind Nightingale

Melbourne Urban Design Meetup #3: The ethos and business model behind Nightingale
Laurence DragomirApril 29, 2015

Following on from the first Melbourne Urban Design Meetup (MUDM) during February, Queens Collective at 20 Queen Street hosted the third MUDM event where James Legge of Six Degrees Architects gave a presentation on the design and business model that brought The Commons to fruition, and so too shortly The Nightingale located at 6 Florence Street, Brunswick.

Beginning with Six Degrees' Heller Street Park and Residences project, James Legge explored its rationale and consequently how it would inform the Nightingale. The aim was to design a contemporary terrace house, or more specifically family-centric medium density housing adjacent to a public park. The project was developed on a former municipal tip previously owned by the City of Moreland whom now own and maintain (for the most part) the park.

Two-thirds park and one-third apartments, the park is ultimately used by both residents and the wider community at large. Terraformed in such a way as to create public, semi-private and private spaces, Heller Street Park and Residences employed a visual barrier by way of a verge to naturally define public and private areas.

Melbourne Urban Design Meetup #3: The ethos and business model behind Nightingale
Heller Street Park and Residences. Image © Six Degrees

Heller Street Park and Residences is characterised by abstracted timber blocks which give the forms a 3-dimensional quality, a reaction against "developers stripping back." All plans are the same internally with the front of the terraces all enjoying a north facing aspect and each measuring 5.5m wide.

The articulation of the upper floor has been designed to give each town house an individual identity. James Legge emphasized the need to be mindful of where money is spent in terms of detailing, and that the odd bespoke characteristic (say stained glass entry lighting) provides for a richer architecture without adding significant cost to the project.

The presentation then moved on to cover the merits of The Commons and Nightingale model, how elements of Heller Street are entwined with their most recent projects and how Six Degrees came to be involved in the projects along with a raft of other architects.

Melbourne Urban Design Meetup #3: The ethos and business model behind Nightingale
Nightingale hero shot. Image © Breathe Architecture

Projects such as The Commons and Nightingale, Legge argues, are about architects taking the initiative and putting their money where their mouths are. The aim is simple: to provide quality apartments that are spacious, sustainable and affordable.

Architects have an obligation to the greater society to protect the interests of the people and the built environment but there is a concern that the responsibility of creating the urban environment has been taken out of the hands of the architect and is now the domain of the project manager.

Nightingale is a triple bottom line development. Apartments that are environmentally, socially and financially sustainable.

The ultimate goal of the project is to provide quality urban housing at an affordable price by simplifying both the development process and the building itself.

James Legge, Six Degrees Architects

The projects are about designing and facilitating community by encouraging engagement and interaction amongst residences via shared public spaces and rooftop gardens. Additionally apartments are designed in such a way that all rooms and living areas are afforded quality natural light and ventilation without the need for borrowed light from living areas.

Melbourne Urban Design Meetup #3: The ethos and business model behind Nightingale
Typical Nightingale plan. Image © Breathe Architecture

The model places an equal emphasis on financial return, sustainability and livability where others are more geared, in terms of development priorities, towards greater financial reward with far less concern for sustainability and livability. It also reduces project costs significantly as a result of streamlining both the sales process and apartment designs. This is achieved via the following exclusions:

  • No Marketing Team or Advertising Fees - Saving approximately $50,000
  • No Display Suite - Saving approximately $100,000
  • No Real Estate Agents - Saving approximately $250,000
  • No Basement Car Parking - Saving approximately $500,000
  • No Second Bathrooms - Saving approximately $200,000
  • No Individual Laundries - Saving approximately $150,000
  • No Individual Services - Saving approximately $250,000

And unlike a standard procurement process where the project is put out to tender, the intent is for projects which follow The Commons and Nightingale model to be built by a quality builder procured through a negotiated price as per the cost plan prepared by the Quantity Surveyor. This in turn allows for early input from the builder regarding buildability issues or equivalent problems that may arise during construction.

The ultimate goal with these projects according to James Legge, is to develop an affordable housing template that other architects with similar aspirations and goals can then use to facilitate similar outcomes. The release of the intellectual property is intended to empower "Architectural activism via architect as ethical developer."

The development team headed by Six Degrees Architects is currently taking registrations for Nightingale 2.0.

Incidentally the next MUDM event will be held on Thursday the 28th of May with guest presenter, acting Victorian Government Architect Jill Garner. To stay up to date or connect with MUDM, you can follow them on Twitter or on their Meetup page.

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.

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