In the context of a growing awareness towards the latent carbon stored in Australia’s existing building stock, Polychrome by David Boyle Architect demonstrates an alternative solution to knocking-down bulky, red-brick apartment blocks.   

Situated in Newtown, Sydney, the original apartment building was constructed in the 1960s and 70s and, at the time, offered an idealised residential typology that replaced the previously sought-after, compact and shady terraces of Sydney’s inner city suburbs.

But at the turn of the new millennium when trends in living arrangements again changed, the building was neglected due to its large scale and redundant amenity. Boyle’s refurbishment of Polychrome offers an alternative solution to the knock-down rebuild model, whereby internal layouts are redesigned within the building's existing external skin to create a whole new space without the excessive waste of building materials associated with demolition.

The four, two-bedroom apartments have been fully refurbished and upgraded to maximise the space provided by the original structure. The bedrooms were relocated to the rear to create larger open-planned living areas which connect to new side and front gardens, improving passive cross ventilation and aspect. New doors provide separate entries from the street, making the apartments more akin to semi-detached houses, and external spaces have been landscaped to encourage street interaction with the community.  

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Typical before and after floorplan. Image: DBA

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Primary to the team’s considerations was the retention of the red-textured brick and layering of the fa├žade with new architectural elements to break down the red brick/red tile building mass, so that it would better relate to the streetscape. New brick-paving was also added to provide a contemporary counterpoint complimenting the existing brickwork in colour tone and pattern. Priority was given to the lower section of the building to create a strong unifying base to the building. The horizontal band applied to the facade of the building includes a projecting timber reveal and a docrative timber fence extending to the side boundaries. 

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Taking inspiration from Newtown’s signature artistic style as well as the 70’s vibrant designs, the new elements of the building have a graphically bold and playful character. Its new entry pergola, painted render, sculptural letterbox, brick pillars, screens, concrete seat, steps and landscape design for example, were all intended to reflect on those themes while creating a more subdued focus away from Newtown’s busy urban character.

When you look at Polychrome, your eyes will be immersed by its polychromatic mural applied to the lower section of the building. The balance between the different coloured blocks creates a shadow play and perception of depth and focuses attention to entry and offers a more contributory urban gesture befitting the area.

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The project was completed in February 2015 and won the 2015 AIA NSW Chapter Awards for both Sustainable Architecture and Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing.

PRODUCTS

SKYLIGHTS
VELUX

EXTERIOR BRICKS
Bowral Bricks (existing)

ALUMINUM WINDOWS
Airlite Windows

FIRE RATED DOORS
Solid Core

HARDWOOD FLOORS
Havwoods

PORCELAIN TILES
Academy Tiles

PENDANT LIGHTING
Nud

KITCHEN APPLIANCES
Winning Appliances

BATHROOM FIXTURES
Winning Appliances

HEATING AND COOLING
Daikin Australia