Housing project wins architecture award

St Albans Housing. (Peter Bennetts)

A St Albans housing project has a residential architecture award at the 2022 Victorian Architecture Awards.

St Albans Housing was recognised for welcoming a new precedent for equitable living with a repeatable model for flexible housing.

The design was supported by an Australian Research Council grant, and focused on meeting the needs of the elderly but is not officially ‘elderly housing’ – its flexible design allows a range of tenants of different ages and abilities to be accommodated in any apartment, aiming for a mixed community.

The awards celebrate the state’s best architecture, with 66 projects recognised across 14 categories.

Australian Institute of Architects Victorian chapter president Bill Krotiris said the awards provided an opportunity to celebrate the work of members who endeavour to find creative solutions to issues of accessibility, sustainability and equality.

State manager Tim Leslie said the undeniable quality of this year’s submissions caused significant debate among the jury.

“This year’s winners stand as a testament to the vitality of Melbourne’s cultural life, providing world-class venues for sport, the arts, education, community, faith and commerce – it is hugely buoying to see these new additions to our city that that will serve their communities for generations to come,” he said.

The jury said St Albans Housing was designed and built as an experimental precedent for a suburban mid-rise housing typology.

“Building siting has carefully calibrated setbacks and scale, allowing for effective landscape to be integrated within a densifying suburban context. Central to the design is accessibility and enabling dignity for residents who may have limited mobility or specific needs. Each dwelling is accessed by welcoming common circulation spaces, with additional space to sit and enjoy outlook and fresh air,” the jury said.

“Themes of generosity continue in the carefully detailed apartment entries and interiors. Fixed areas, including bathrooms, kitchen and private balconies are prioritised and designed for maximum amenity and flexibility. The large open living spaces allow each tenant to customise the layout of their home prior to moving in, to accommodate their own specific family living arrangement. Use of exposed blockwork walls and concrete floors provides a calm simplicity and backdrop for tenant personalisation, while resolving a simultaneous focus on longevity, economy and resilience.

“Supported through an Australian Research Council grant, the project has invested in considerable research and client engagement to inform functional and spatial outcomes. With its clear prioritisation of tenant health and wellbeing, St Albans Housing is a welcome new precedent for equitable living.”