Northpoint Construction Group
As Australians embrace multi-residential living, architects are using brickwork to link contemporary developments with heritage materiality.
As Australian cities continue to densify, real estate prices remain elevated, and empty-nesters downsize, the market for multi-residential developments is both flourishing, and evolving. Moving out from the central business districts where they were once concentrated, developments are offering more than just location and economy; today, shared amenities, environmental credentials and a sense of community are just as high on residents’ priority lists.
Chapman Green, a recently finished multi-residential development by PBD in the Sydney suburb of Beecroft, is exemplary of this new breed. The client’s brief for the project’s interiors emphasised quality finishes, functional floorplans, and abundant landscaped areas. Externally, these needed to be housed within an architectural response that pairs heritage elements of the context with a contemporary interpretation of the building typology.
Paul Buljevic, Director at PBD, explains that the design team’s solution was for “two buildings separated by a landscaped courtyard buffer, with a minimal number of apartments serviced by a single core to maximize the opportunity for solar access and natural cross-flow ventilation.” The clustering of apartments at each floor also helps foster a sense of community, despite the fact that the development consists of 60 dwellings. Buljevic continues, describing how his team elaborated “an architectural concept which incorporates facets of the defining heritage architecture of the context within a contemporary built form – working with proportion, symmetry, repetition and solid to void ratios.”
The resulting structures are uncommonly delicate for the multi-residential class; generous glazed doors and windows opening onto living areas create a sense of transparency and lightness, while masonry, railings and window frames become progressively finer at each successive storey.
Materiality was also crucial in achieving the desired visual and tactile aesthetics. Buljevic comments, “The predominate use of brickwork within the palette of materials was critical in achieve this outcome. The podium base of the building was grounded through heavier detailing and a rendered base. Brickwork provided the base material for the main body of the façades, highlighted against a backdrop of aluminium powder coated metal work, timber screens and banding/reveal features.” Interspersed among the smoother textures of the other finishes, Bowral Bricks in Bowral Brown offer a satisfying contrast, simultaneously highlighting the crisp, polished geometries of the building while lending it weight and solidity.
Brickwork was also chosen for its resonance with the material palette of the surrounding built environment – following the construction of a railway station in Beecroft in 1886, a number of Federation cottages were constructed, employing brickwork for both functional and decorative purposes. Furthermore, using brickwork was an opportunity to create an aesthetic continuity for the high expected portion of downsizing tenants transferring from standalone homes.
In light of the happy marriage between brickwork and more modern finishes found in Chapman Green, Buljevic reflects that “Architects are consistently using brickwork in contemporary architecture and there seems to be a trend in design which is drawing on historical elements and exploring the use of brickwork in patterned textured walls, the detail of which seems to be more intricate rather than minimal in approach and detail.”
In PBD’s work, Buljevic is particularly drawn to brickwork for “the myriad number of ways in which it can be incorporated – the repetition and detail opportunities are endless.”
Ultimately, however, architecture is a practice concerned with pragmatic issues as much as aesthetic ones, and the professionalism, reliability and experience of a supplier factor heavily in material choice. As such, working with a company such as Brickworks, with its extensive offering and strong relationships with architects and builders alike, guarantees a smoother build. As Buljevic recalls, collaboration with the brick supplier “was the major defining driver for the material palette and external articulation. It was key in delivering a product which responds to the context and caters for the intended target audience.”
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