Smart Design Studio - Sydney Architects

Arlington Grove

Catalysed by the extension of Sydney’s light rail to Dulwich Hill, and a consequential land rezoning for medium-density housing, Smart Design Studio’s Masterplan for Arlington Grove has delivered a beautifully landscaped new residential precinct. This former industrial site has been converted into 246 well-planned apartments arrayed around a series of leafy courtyards and lanes. At an urban scale the site was conceived as an edge to Johnson Park which sits to the north-west and; at a finer grain, as a continuation of the orthogonal street network to the south-east.

The four buildings that make up the project are carefully located on the site to both contain the extensive landscaping, and to maximise the number of bright, sunny apartments with views over the district to the CBD skyline and the park. Their narrow footprints promote natural cross ventilation for the residences. The building heights are unified, sitting at either 4 storeys where they address the local streets or stepping up to 8 storeys towards Johnson Park. Brick was chosen as it’s a naturally low maintenance material that adds texture and compliments both the neighbouring housing stock and the larger buildings of Dulwich Hill.

The architecture utilises carefully composed and simple, long elevations, their principles borrowed from classical buildings, framed by articulated corners. Contrasting the almost metronomic rhythm of the façades these corners provide dynamism and interest, creating a strong identity for each of the four buildings arrayed around the campus-like site. Expressed floor slabs serve a dual purpose, both supporting the leaves of brickwork along the façade and visually breaking the building into segments, by introducing a further note of play within the highly regular grid.

Two storey high colonnades have been placed around the perimeter of the courtyards. They connect via generous terraces directly to the squares, lanes and gardens of the site. The facades of the buildings are further articulated via deep brick blades which form a brise soleil, encouraging shadow play. The elegant vertical orientation of the brick blades also provides depth to assist in passive solar control, protecting building interiors from summer sun while allowing in low angled winter sun.

Each building has a clear address along the new publicly accessible private lanes and walkways within the accessible green spaces at ground level. Public benefits, such as “Arlington Square”, a landscaped shared zone featuring a café and an extended, high quality ground plane, has transformed a dead end street into a vibrant urban place, marking the entrance to the new Arlington tram stop. A new GreenWay running parallel with the tramline provides informal native landscaping for the enjoyment of residents, neighbours and wildlife whilst forming a cycle path connection to Sydney CBD.

The interiors of the project bring the architecture inside and bring to the fore some of SDS’s established interior design concepts, adapted to suit this project and location. The foundation for these simple and beautiful apartments is great planning to achieve generously sized apartments with tall ceilings.Simple orthogonal white interior spaces, reflecting the rhythm of the exteriors, are contrasted with gently splayed joinery elements which draw inspiration from the dynamic corners of the buildings.

The look is tailored and the palette is matt with charred wood veneer as the feature for the dark scheme and white over-painted wood for the light. These veneers are coupled with clay-stained wood, looped carpet, brushed stainless steel details, full height doors and very fine floating benchtops. Functional arrangements, high quality fixtures and fittings and energy efficient design create wonderful homes for people to live in, connected to the outdoors and the surrounding green space.

Dark brick fences at the base of the building extend the architecture into the surrounding open spaces. In addition to the landscaped courtyards and lanes, there are facilities that help to build a community – a shed to repair bikes and assemble furniture, a club room that can be booked for birthday parties or meetings and a barbeque area. A community garden is another asset, as are the fruit trees lining the laneways such as the “orange grove”. Stemming from this concept each building bears the name of a different variety of orange.

ARCHITECTURE FROM THE INSIDE OUT