Thursday 30 Aug 2012


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The redevelopment of the Royal Melbourne Regiment Drill Hall evolved a historic structure into a vibrant, 7-storey affordable housing residence, providing 59 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for low-income tenants. Affordable housing continues to grow scarce in Melbourne and government policy in this area will remain vital for the city's wellbeing. While exterior excellence may be mandated through planning procedures, the interior space is often overlooked, resulting in an "institutional" design.

Our brief was to provide high-quality dwellings that are both durable and offer a sense of ‘home' for the tenants. The project included the sensitive restoration of the existing Drill Hall below into a new community drop-in health centre, illustrating two aspirations underpinning the project: social sustainability and the preservation of the building's 1937 ‘moderne' heritage. The internal palette was selected in response to the brief to deliver a domestic, anti-institutional ambience. The pursuit of this is declared with a sense of address at the building entrance, marked by an exterior faceted green canopy and birrus matting.

In reference to the building's ‘domesticity', public areas are left incomplete with exposed timber stud walls and test swatches of bright yellows and warm greys. Well ventilated corridors are filled with natural light and offer expansive views. (Naturally ventilated and day-light corridors offer expansive views of the city) The entrance to each apartment is generously recessed, top-lit and identified by welcoming, yellow doors.

The apartments are also designed to exploit the abundant Australian sunlight through full-height windows, complemented by classically neutral walls and dramatically exposed, off-form concrete ceilings. The redevelopment incorporates ESD strategies such as lower resource use and utilises natural cross ventilation in conjunction with the thermal mass of the building for cooling. Drill Hall demonstrates the high value of interior design as a way of creating social sustainability and a place for vulnerable community members that can be identified as "home".

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