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Nilpena Horizons Social Housing

The project realises the transformation of a catalyst site, positively contributing to the community through a design outcome that is not typical of a standard social housing project

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Demonstrating how high-density can be achieved in a low-density environment, the development comprises of twelve apartments with a mixture of one and two-bedroom designs to be utilised for social housing.

Engaged by Renewal SA on behalf of the South Australian Housing Authority, the apartment complex was at the centre of the authority’s rejuvenation of stock within Morphettville. As one of the hallmark sites within an overarching Renewing Our Streets and Suburbs (ROSAS) program it was critical to demonstrate an intelligent solution that sensitively increased density in a typical suburban context.

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Community consultation was key in mitigating planning risks, overcoming initial push back received from local residents. Original plans for a four-storey development were taken to community consultation, with overwhelming feedback from local residents finding a development of this scale to be contentious. This resulted in a revised brief for a reduced three-storey outcome.

In keeping with the scale of the surrounding area, the drop in floor level allows the building to present less like a large apartment complex within a suburban setting and more like a townhouse development. Using solid to void ratios and changes in materials, the front elevation reads as two storey element, integrating well into the streetscape and context.

The built form is programmed to address the primary street and take advantage of views towards the public reserve. This resulted in vehicle access from the secondary street, Nilpena Avenue, minimising additional traffic movements along Appleby Road — addressing the community’s concerns about traffic congestion as a result of increased density in the area.

Front gate access and generous outdoor offerings along Appleby Road create engagement with the street through human-scale interaction. The integration of an extended walkway canopy and street furniture along the short elevation — encouraging pedestrian access and activation on Nilpena Avenue.

Designed around a central core, circulation through the building is through a common external walkway at the building’s rear. The layout eliminates dark internal corridors and encourages neighbourly interaction and community building while providing connection to the street.

Extensive design analysis was undertaken to test overlooking and overshadowing. Demonstrating how design can be used to mitigate key site issues, a skillion roofed carpark structure was applied as a treatment to address overlooking into neighbouring private open space at the sites rear.

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The standard materials and level of finish typically specified for public housing projects were challenged — with the vision to instill a sense of ownership and pride in residents by improving the level of quality.

The palette was restrained to three key elements, focussing on pre-finished and natural materials that referenced the surroundings while minimising costs and ongoing maintenance.

At ground level, concrete blockwork presents a quality, robust and timeless finish to the street. The feature timber-look screens reference the established native gum trees lining the adjacent reserve — their curved form wrapping the building envelope to provide interest and soften sharp edges and mass. The screens in part provide a treatment for overlooking and in turn, achieve a level of privacy and passive surveillance for residents. The use of brick in key portions of the facade was a logical reference to the surrounding neighbourhood.

The project can be utilised as a case study for future projects, demonstrating what can be achieved on a corner site through a design that responds to context and community feedback, and challenges the standard level of finish

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