These three townhouse-style units – featuring three bedrooms, two bathrooms and outdoor living spaces – occupy a former surface carpark in Brisbane, Australia; just 7.2m wide and 46m long.
In its conception, philosophy and execution, this is our most radical project yet, but the materials and spatial arrangements are familiar, creating a new typology for Brisbane: the ‘Queenslander Apartment’.
This innovative approach to ‘Missing Middle’ housing provides comfortable, healthy and efficient homes in a sought-after location with enviable amenities, helping to counter urban sprawl.
The original zoning for a single two-storey home was beyond the reach of many potential occupants, but our proposal created three three-storey affordable and compact dwellings, while retaining the parking below.
Each unit has dedicated carparking with the remaining spaces attached to a nearby commercial building; these can be easily converted into hospitality venues in future, as Brisbane’s laneway culture continues to evolve.
Sited between traditional Queenslanders and a taller commercial building, the primary elevation responds to local character with a protected balcony raised above car parking, facing Arthur Street.
It’s layered to reduce perceived height, while bulk is similarly reduced on Amos Lane, by pulling the three dwellings apart.
This design explodes the brief to provide new housing choice in a sought-after area.
External materials – such as steel cladding, patterned metal screens and battens – provide privacy and connection simultaneously. Internally, the extensive use of timber, concrete floors and steel-framed stairs creates interiors that are familiar and contemporary.
Careful placement of windows and doors brings in plentiful natural light and directs prevailing North-Easterly breezes through the apartments, while promoting sightliness across the surrounding tree canopy and topography.
Rigorous design-thinking creates a sense of spaciousness – and indoor-outdoor flow – that is not typically found in dwellings of this size in inner-city locations.
We worked closely with planners, certifiers, fire engineers and landscapers to balance architectural aims against fire requirements and acoustic separation, while steering the project through council’s approval process.
The ground floor car-parking incurred additional costs – associated with meeting fire ratings for different building classes – but we devised an innovative and cost-effective solution, that combines concrete construction below with lightweight construction above.
Our design solution – with its minimal setbacks – helped to unlock additional yield across the site, far outweighing those additional costs.
This housing development in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane provides a new exemplar for leftover small parcels of inner-city land. Located near amenities including employment, healthcare, education, public transport, community, shopping etc, it provides new housing choice in a neighbourhood dominated by two types – high-rise apartments and single homes.
This innovative approach to Brisbane’s ‘Missing Middle’ housing problem helps to mitigate against urban sprawl, by repurposing under-utilised land to create homes that are comfortable, healthy and efficient throughout the year.
The careful design – which considers the needs of occupants, neighbours and the broader community – provides an example of sensitive densification, resulting in three new dwellings, where the code allowed for only one.
By marrying the best attributes of traditional Queenslanders – including elevated living spaces, protected north-facing balconies, cross-flow ventilation, shading against summer sun – with the location and inclusions of contemporary apartments, these homes offer a radical vision for sustainable development of the future.
The apartments have modest footprints yet they are spacious and generous, thanks to careful design, siting, planning and landscaping.
They demonstrate that it’s possible to live comfortably and healthily, by marrying the best qualities of Queenslanders with the convenience and amenity of inner-city high-rises.
This project uses lightweight construction – timber framing with Colorbond wall and roof sheeting – to achieve our goal of generous internal living spaces on this small parcel of under-utilized land. The use of a single material for cladding expedited the construction process, thanks to its ease of installation, which required fewer trades on site.
We chose Klip-lok profile in Shale Grey matt finish to blend in with the surrounding Queenslander houses, and to reflect and reduce heat from the interiors. The use of steel wall cladding and roof sheeting enabled us to incorporate sufficient insulation to keep the homes warm in winter and cool in summer, thereby contributing to their overall comfort and efficiency.
The Klip-Lok profile provides a subtle, sculptural quality to the façade and roof, as shadows pass across it throughout the day. It was also selected for its durability and long-life, with little maintenance required.
“We originally approached REFRESH*DESIGN to explore the possibilities for a better use of a strip of land formerly used as a commercial carpark. Their proposed solution - which included three new units and the retention of carparking - initially took us by surprise.
We were even more impressed at their ability to steer this innovative design proposal through council approval process, and to help us identify the right builder to deliver the project.
At every step in this process we’ve been surprised and delighted by Refresh’s out-of-the-box thinking, and the final results have exceeded all of our initial expectations.”
Transaction Property Services
Erhard Rathmayr, Monika Obrist, Corinne Trang
Wac & Co Construction Group
RPS - town planner
Lysaght Colorbond Steel, Argent, AWS Vantage, James Hardie Scyon
Andy MacPherson Studio
REFRESH*DESIGN [R*] is an award-winning Brisbane (Australia) based architectural design studio committed to realising finely crafted contemporary architecture responsive to brief and context.
We have completed a diverse range of projects including houses and renovations, townhouses and apartments, commercial and hospitality projects.
The R* team is inspired by how architecture can shape a better society by enhancing the human experience. Our mission is to use design as a tool to surpass our client’s aspiration whilst at the same time balancing their intentions to positively influence the environment.
Our work has a strong focus on sustainability, underlined by its capacity to endure. It is contextual, adaptable, harmonious and well considered in the use of space, light, material and technology. Striving for the most meaningful and sustainable solutions, from concept to delivery, in every phase we continue to improve and refine the design until the project is complete.