The Commons Housing / Breathe Architecture
Text description provided by the architects. This is old Brunswick, it’s industrial, it’s run down and it’s dirty. It sounds gruesome but there is also a strange endearing quality about this area. The silver lining is the people of Brunswick. It is a melting pot of migrant activity, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, African all coming together here. There is no judgment, everyone is part of one totally imperfect community.The Commons is an experiment in building an urban community. It could have only worked in a few Melbourne locations. There is no accident that it sits adjacent to Anstey Station in the heart of old Brunswick.
At it’s core, The Commons is about people not architectural form. What is really impressive here is the way in which people use the building, the way they interact, it’s how they smile and talk to each other in the lift, it’s their generosity toward one another. The sense of community and camaraderie that has already developed here is incredible. The Commons is filled with great neighbours and good people. I would like to think that the architecture has been the catalyst for this outcome, a magnet for people of similar values to come together to build a community. The design strategy for The Commons was to build more with less. To give space and height, light and air. To give people what they needed not what the marketing agents thought would sell. The Commons is made up of a series of small, but delightful architectural moments. And the whole, together, is so much more than the sum of its parts.
The planning was kept simple. Materiality took precedence over form. Hand painted signage lead residents past the fire sprinkler assembly, exposed and painstakingly curated, into the foyer, lined with a tapestry of recycled brickwork from the warehouse that once sat on the site.Lift lobbies battened in natural Blackbutt and mild steel plate signal entries to generous apartments with a soft palette of waxed timber floors, concrete ceilings and exposed copper services. The northern apartments look out through a shipping chain screen, providing the framework for 24 Wisteria saplings to occupy. Rooftop decks, surrounded by verdant plants overlook the Brunswick skyline to the city beyond. Neighbours talk at the rooftop plots sharing tips on how best to grow their crops.
The Commons also demonstrates generosity to the wider community. To the west, the ground floor is set back to widen the compressed bike path, the light court and the rear courtyard are both handed over to the public domain rather than being territorially fenced off. These green spaces offer relief to the concrete and asphalt urban landscape of old Brunswick. The Commons is about sustainable urbanisation – a triple bottom line development that is replicable. Apartments that are spacious, generous, simple, affordable, sustainable and that add value to the community.The goal of The Commons was to build a flagship of sustainable development. A triple bottom line development that could be replicable.
The apartments are generous, easy to live in and light filled. You know your neighbours, you can bring your pets. You can grow old here. Communal rooftop spaces, vegetable plots and shared rooftop laundry ensure that you are never lonely. People want to live here. 21 of the 24 apartments are owner occupied. The ground floor is designed to engage with the community, it houses a café, retail tenancy and two affordable artist studios. (to assist in stopping development forcing the exodus of artists from the area.)
The Commons is a simple building, assembled with beautiful, natural, materials. Made up of a series of small, but delightful architectural moments. Each of these were created with a social, sustainable and economic mandate in mind. The Commons encourages real behavioral change in its occupants and aims to inspire others to do the same.