Smart Design Studio - Sydney Architects

Sydney 385

2016 AIA NSW Architecture Award Multi-Unit Residential Winner

Like a compendium of stories, this apparently simple multi-residential building gradually reveals a series of ideas that are both individual and unique, yet combine to create a satisfying whole. At Sydney 385, a building of 10 apartments in Balgowlah, our aim was to make exemplar infill architecture. The outcome is unprepossessing but of high quality, responding to the site and its principle assets: a sunny, urban outlook in one direction and a leafy outlook towards the Pacific Ocean in the other.


A skin of solid brickwork patterned with apparently random openings contains the building. The double-height spaces brought through to this exterior extend the outlook of two floor levels; one opening up towards the sky, one looking down to the street. Paired with a fire-engine red street number, another signifies the main building entrance. Each wall is carefully proportioned to avoid cut bricks whilst allowing interiors to discreetly access sun and views. Horizontal raked joints and brick lintels provide further refinement.


Inside, the walls and soffits of the apartments are expressed in off-form concrete. To maximise the visibility of this beautiful raw material interior spaces are arranged to flow around a central cream joinery-clad box; kitchen, bathrooms and storage are contained within. This arrangement also lends a sensation of spaciousness, emphasised by lengths of track lighting running parallel to the walls. These, along with oversize oyster light fittings paired playfully over the dining space, are in sharp black to suit the grey concrete.


This architectural palette is classically modern, focussed on differentiating the project from the painted plasterboard standard for finishing multi-residential interiors. An intensive process of co-ordination and planning with structural and services designers was required to ensure concrete could be exposed and services concealed. A tilt-up concrete construction strategy was developed to deliver the desired finish for the required budget.


The building’s predominantly masonry lower floor levels are topped by a lightweight metal-clad box, well set back from the street to achieve more space within a restrictive planning envelope without neighbourhood impact. This also enables expansive, sunny terraces overlooking the water to be created, serving the two penthouse apartments within.


The palette of the apartments is calm, designed to create a sense of quiet retreat. In playful contrast, bright and bold lobbies are located at the building’s heart. Here, concrete floors, soffits and walls are enlivened by joinery panels, in individual colours to distinguish each floor. From outside to within, each space at Sydney 385 is refined to be individual, yet part of a cohesive ensemble.



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