Inside SJB’s exposed concrete residential fortress
41 Birmingham Street Alexandria, Sydney NSW 2015
There are a number of residential pockets around Sydney where it seems like industrial buildings go to retire. As space becomes more of an untouchable luxury, and as developers continue to chase the green dragon, the response to these out-of-favour buildings is to raze them to the ground and build something new, shiny and profitably soulless in their place.
The Sydney suburb of Alexandria is full of such industrial retirees. But at least one of them, on the site of 41 Birmingham Street, has received a Benjamin Button awakening thanks to some TLC by SJB.
The architects started with a shell. Although relatively well-maintained thanks to a reliably robust material palette – a staple of such industrial builds – the building was not high on liveability.
Rather than whitewashing the site’s rich history, SJB’s approach was to re-animate it. The result is clean and conspicuously reminiscent of the building’s heritage. An exposed concrete façade and ribbed concrete ceilings represent of continuation of the building’s character, but several animating features – such as terrazzo stone, lime-washed Cypress pine floors, and Carrara marble – contribute to its new architectural profile.
This contemporary animation continues throughout the substantial number of outdoor spaces. For instance, at the rear of 41 Birmingham and on its rooftop, residents have access to landscaped garden spaces courtesy of landscape architect, William Dangar.
Since being completed in June 2016, 41 Birmingham has received an Award for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing at the 2017 NSW Architecture Awards, and has been shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival (WAF) Awards in the Housing category.