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This Sunny, Yellow Building Is One Of Melbourne's Most Revolutionary Apartments

Apartments

If you’re a local to Melbourne’s north, you’ve probably spotted the bright, yellow features of the ParkLife apartments in Brunswick.

But the intrigue behind the Austin Maynard Architects-designed and developed building goes beyond its beautiful design. The complex is one of the recently completed buildings built under the Nightingale Housing model – a non-for-profit housing provider creating residential buildings under a model that prioritises sustainability, affordability, and community.

ParkLife is also one of Australia’s most sustainable apartment buildings, complete with shared vegetable gardens and an open-air rooftop that helps bring the community together. All the residents had to enter a ballot just to be offered the chance to buy their apartment – which is part of what makes living there so special.

Tour the revolutionary building below!

9th December, 2022

Meet one of Melbourne’s most unique, and sustainable, apartment buildings: ParkLife. Photo – Tom Ross

There’s 37 homes inside the super-sustainable, steel-clad structure, plus a rooftop laundry and amphitheatre above! Photo – Tom Ross

Designed and developed by Austin Maynard Architects, the building is one of six in Nightingale’s residential precinct called The Village. Photo – Tom Ross

 

On each level, the front doors face an open-air common area with light wells on both sides. Photo – Tom Ross

Inside, one of the rectangular 75sq m homes lies an open-plan kitchen, dining, living area that extends to a balcony with glass sliding doors. Photo – Tom Ross

Architect Ray Dinh says he and fiancé Tess jumped at the chance to buy one of the unallocated apartments in 2021. He’s since installed a custom-built bookshelf to their living space. Photo – Tom Ross

In the kitchen, ample built in storage is enhanced by a mirrored splash-back – which owner and Austin Maynard architct Claire says helps reflect more light into the kitchen! Photo – Tom Ross

There’s also no carparks in the complex, instead, residents are encouraged to use the secure bike storage, public transport and The Village’s shared 10+ cars. Photo – Tom Ross

While some home’s have bright yellow balconies, others have birdcage-style terraces. Photo – Tom Ross

Johanna Picton has been living in her two-bedroom apartment with her dog Billie, who is well loved in the building! Photo – Tom Ross

The sun inspired ParkLife’s distinctive yellow accents, which give the apartment a warm glow throughout the day. Photo – Tom Ross

ParkLife is one of the 14 completed Nightingale projects – but construction is already underway for several more across Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.  Photo – Tom Ross

 

Christina Karras
Friday 9th December 2022

ParkLife isn’t your average apartment building. The Austin Maynard Architects-designed and developed complex is all-electric, fossil-fuel free and has an impressive 9.1-star NatHERS rating. And nestled in Brunswick right by the train station, it’s got the best of Melbourne’s inner-city at its doorstep.

It’s also one of six new neighbouring buildings in The Village. Each one has been designed by local, award-winning architects under the Nightingale model, that’s been pushing change on Melbourne’s housing market crisis since 2013.

Founded by architect Jeremy McLeod and his team at Breathe Architecture, Nightingale Housing has grown into something unheard of: a non-for-profit housing provider creating ‘off-the-plan’-style homes that are sustainable, liveable, and affordable.

Nightingale sells their apartments ‘at-cost’, without a mark-up. Instead of bidding for properties based on their budget, buyers enter a competitive ‘ballot’ to be offered the chance to buy an apartment of their choice — with a priority system in place for those who often get left behind on the property ladder, including people with disabilities or their carers, women aged 55 and over and First Nations people.

It all sounds a bit too good to be true. But residents of the eye-catching ParkLife building are grateful for how this ethos shapes who lives inside, and what values they share.

Having lived in apartments across Melbourne and New York before, resident Johanna Picton says ‘nothing compares to ParkLife’. Her two-bedroom apartment has a birdcage balcony, which perfectly catches the afternoon sun, and its thoughtful layout makes it feel like a ‘mini house’ within an apartment footprint.

‘I’ve always been attracted to what Nightingale stands for and am just lucky enough to have won the ballot for ParkLife,’ she says. ‘I was so happy I cried when they called me to tell me!’

All 37 homes inside have been sold to local residents and community housing providers — not investors — making them even more attractive to first-home buyers like Tristan and Claire Ward, who’s an architect for Austin Maynard Architects. Despite not being involved in the design of ParkLife herself, Claire says she knew the unique Nightingale model offered them a chance to own ‘a great apartment’, while also being part of a community.

‘For a long time, we bought into the notion that we needed to buy a house, on a block, with a backyard but realised we’d be giving up the inner north lifestyle that we really enjoyed,’ Claire adds.

‘Our apartment overlooks the Bulleke-Bek park. When I sit in my living room, I look into the canopy of an established gum tree called Alan, named after the man who planted him. Beyond the canopy I can see other gum trees dotted around the park and surrounding area. It’s hard to explain, but it honestly doesn’t feel like we live in the middle of Brunswick.’

Inside each home, a simple interior palette of timber floors, white walls and joinery, concrete ceiling, and a terrazzo tile in the bathroom left room for residents like Ray Dinh (another Austin Maynard architect) to make the space their own. He designed and built a bookshelf in their living room as a place for his family’s ‘favourite things’, adding personality to the light-filled space beside their yellow balcony. For Ray, good architecture helps people ‘live a more balanced, fulfilled life’ – and ParkLife ticks all the boxes.

All the owners say the tight-knit community is (overwhelmingly) the best part about the complex, which has even earned a reputation of being the ‘party building’ of The Village.

Playful shared spaces like the vegetable gardens, laundry, and open-entry breezeways have made it a place where the neighbours not only know each other, but stop to chat. And they often meet up on the rooftop amphitheatre to watch the spectacular sunset.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net