From little things, big things grow.

This is a concept Melbourne practice Breathe Architecture is no stranger to, especially since their project The Commons has picked up yet another prestigious award, this time at the 2014 Australian Institute of Architects’ (AIA) National Architecture Awards.

The apartment building, conceived out of a difficult and damaged site, took home The Frederick Romberg Award for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing, as well as the David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture.

It features a simple and minimal design that allows the natural characteristics of its materials to be celebrated and expressed. For the architects, the project was about people, with the architecture serving as a catalyst for bringing together socially responsible individuals who strive to give back to their neighbours and the broader community.

“The Commons takes medium-density living in a groundbreaking new direction. Conceived as a flagship triple-bottom-line residential development, the project is about building an urban community and striking a balance between affordability, sustainability and liveability,” the awards judges say on the project’s Sustainability category win.

The panel goes on to praise the project’s sustainability initiatives, which strip backs as well as add on top-performing products such as double-glazed thermally broken windows, all while ensuring passive design is done right.

"The project nails environmental and social sustainability, is a commercial success and, with all but three of its apartments owner-occupied, it is clear that people want to live there. The Commons is a real leader and sets a brilliant example for other residential developments,"the jury commented.

Jury citation for the Frederick Romberg Award for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing prize:

“The Commons revolutionises apartment living in Australia by demonstrating what can be achieved by architecture through passion, commitment and tenacity. Located in Brunswick – only metres away from Anstey train station, a bike path and local tram – The Commons takes a bold step in eliminating what the ‘market’ insists is necessary is multi-residential design: car parking, sumptuous materials and mechanical cooling. The approach has been positively reductive, questioning what is really needed. Plastered ceilings, balcony soffits and bathroom tiles have all been strategically eliminated to reveal the architectural bones and veins of the building.

“Surrounded by rapid medium-density growth, ground floor tenancies including a cafe replace what would typically be used for car park access, activating the ground plane. Two artist’s studios, for 72 bikes and apartment storage occupy the rest of the floor.













“Uncomplicated apartment plans occupy four levels of the building: 16 two-bedroom and eight one-bedroom apartments. Two acoustically treated light wells deep in the building plan provide access to natural light and ventilation and successfully cool the apartments throughout summer with the assistance of ceiling fans. Apartment balconies activate the facade and benefit from either northern orientation or superb city-skyline views to the south.

Photography by Urban Angles

“The hidden gem is the rooftop, an expansive social space for the occupants that enhances the community spirit of the building. A communal laundry room on the roof is the social glue of the building in which residents chat over domestic chores. A generous pergola-like clothes drying rack recedes from view to preserve the enviable 360-degree views and ambiance of the terrace. Individual garden plots are allocated to each apartment, providing a bounty of produce for occupants to share.”

National Award for Residential Architecture - Multiple Housing

UNSW Kensington Colleges - Bates Smart (NSW)

National Commendation for Residential Architecture - Multiple Housing

Gantry - Bates Smart (NSW)

National Awards for Sustainable Architecture

Australian PlantBank - BVN Donovan Hill (NSW)

The Wayside Chapel - environa studio (NSW)

Click HERE for the full list of winners.