I perviously lived in a one-bedroom apartment in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. In itself not that remarkable, but what I was surprised by was how much I enjoyed living in such a compact space, even when we added a very small third member to the mix.
The facts are that the proportion of the global population living in urban areas is increasing, as are the population densities of our cities. More of us are going to find ourselves living in apartment type housing, and living in closer proximity to our neighbours.
How then can we make this experience as good as possible, so that we enjoy and actually thrive in this new set-up, rather than feeling more isolated and unwell?
When I survey the apartments in Melbourne that I have come across, what comes to mind is poor quality dwellings that have been designed, built, and created by people who are quite a way off wanting or needing to live in this kind of accommodation. Developments that have risk reduction and profit maximisation well in front of design quality, wellbeing, and connection to community.
My guest for this week, Pino Demaio, started a conversation with his friends about the experience they had had of apartment living in Europe. For all of them this it had been a great experience, one that contrasted with their experience of living in apartments in Melbourne.
They look at each other and saw that between them they had the skills to start conceptualising an alternative. Six years later and they have sold all but one of the dwellings that have been the result of this conversation, a townhouse and apartment development in Melbourne’s inner north suburb of Clifton Hill.
Called 120 Roseneath, the project is notable for a number of reasons. For starters, the four directors of Assemble (the development business they created) are going to live on the property, along with a number of their family and friends. Throughout the process there has been a strong focus on community, both the community surrounding the development and those who will be inhabiting the apartments and townhouses. Communal spaces are integral to the design, including gardens, a workshop and BBQ area, facilitating the accidental interactions they hope will help build community. And of course the overall design and the design of each dwelling has been done so with principles of sustainability in mind.
I think I get excited about this project because it reminds me of where I used to live in Sydney, and inspires me that I may get to experience something even better one day.
Assemble and Pino do some other cool things, including Local Peoples – a branding and design agency, Fieldwork Projects – an architecture practice, and Assemble Papers – a online and offline publication about the culture of living closer together (one of four regular newsletters I read – the others being Dr Jason Fox, Future Crunch, and Brain Pickings).
The way in which we live together is a common theme throughout this podcast, and one I will be exploring in more detail next year. I hope you enjoy our conversation.