Compared to Europe, Australia has an undeniable luxury of space. As a result, our residential landscape has long favoured houses over apartments. But, as DKO Design Director Jesse Linardi points out, things are changing. For the latest Architecture and Design podcast, we sit down with this innovative designer to talk about what’s driving that change, what are some of the most important considerations when designing an apartment building – and what the future holds for this particular typology.
“Apartment living is a typology that’s quite common in Europe,” says Jesse. “In Australia, we're only just starting to get used to it.” The highly talented designer is incredibly well-versed on the topic – he’s got several award-winning projects under his belt, including Campbell Street which won a Victorian Architecture Award for Small Project and Multi Residential Architecture.
Jesse explains that while a typical three-bedroom apartment might boast between 95 to 110 square metres, a house of equivalent size will oscillate around 150. Because of that, smaller spaces have to work harder. “In an apartment, or a small townhouse, spaces need to have multiple uses. A living space may need to double as a home office or a kids’ play area. Or, sometimes, it's a social space.”
Jesse points out that – particularly after the pandemic – the needs and wants of the residents have evolved. Many people who want to downsize or switch to a lower-maintenance apartment living don’t want to compromise on space, plus the pressure for our residences to be comfortable, have good ventilation, access to natural light and amenities has certainly been compounded by the numerous lock-downs.
So what are some of the most important considerations when designing an apartment? Jesse explains that when DKO designs an apartment, they start with the building itself. “We look at it as a group of housing. Considering a wider community is really important,” he says. “So we always try to create an opportunity for thriving relationships within the building. And we do that by making the community smaller, so we have more lift cores and less people per floor.”
Jesses says that sun management is the second important consideration - both when it comes to the best access to light and the orientation, to the management of the heat loads. “Sun is your best friend, but it also can be your worst enemy when it comes to living in an apartment.” Amenities go hand in hand with that, and include – amongst other – usable, sizable and effective balconies, which can take the form of rooftop gardens or access to communal facilities, rather than smaller individual balconies hanging off the sides of the building. “All of that should be considered before we even start looking at individual apartments,” Jesse adds.
“Now, within the apartment, flexibility is the key element. The space should be designed so that it can be used differently by different people over time. It’s crucial to offer the residents an opportunity to make the space their own, and use it in a way that suits them, rather than dictate the way that people live. It’s about having flexible plans that can adapt to different ways of living.”
And what does the future hold for apartment living? Jesse highlights the growing importance of sustainability, and the fact that it will affect the way apartments are designed even more prominently moving forward. “I also think that genuine integration of landscape within buildings is something that people are looking forward to, and that will be something that comes through really strongly in the future.”
He also predicts an important shift towards community and multi-generational or family-style living. “In Australia we take quite a singular approach to apartment living so it’s not something that’s inherently a part of the Australian DNA. But I think that’s where this typology is headed,” Jesse sums up, painting a rather appealing picture of the apartment living of the future.
Listen to the full episode if you want to hear about Jesse Linardi’s favourite apartment designs in Melbourne and learn why Marseille’s Unite d’Habitation – built in 1952 – continues being an inspiration for apartment living everywhere.