Cohesive is an excellent word to describe C.F. Row’s design – an award-winning apartment building in inner-city Fitzroy. Initially home to the premier furniture maker C.F Rojo and Sons in 1948, followed by Thonet, the Bentwood chair manufacturer, the building, instead of being knocked down, was made part of the environment when it was turned into a residential project by Woods Bagot.

To celebrate the site’s history, Woods Bagot integrated its heritage base and street frontages into the new design. The architects wanted to stay true to the site’s inner-city location and give back to the neighbourhood’s strong sense of culture by meaningfully integrating elements of history into the final design.

C.F. Row is a well-considered marriage of many things – old materials with new, heritage style with contemporary design, young renters with mature owner-occupiers, and single apartments with three-storey townhouses. In fact, the multi-family development is the sum of many parts brought together cohesively by the architects through thoughtful design and a carefully selected materials palette.

“For us, C.F. Row was an opportunity to design a quality dwelling that retained the memory of the building's fascinating past lives and the lively neighbourhood it sits in today,” says Woods Bagot.

This collection of 52 dwellings, including one, two and three bedroom apartments, and seven townhouses swiftly sold out, drawing a diverse mix of occupants, both young and mature, reflecting not only Fitzroy’s vibrant culture, but also the design’s resonance across generations.

“We considered the social history of the area from the beginning and took a layered design approach that reflected Fitzroy’s community spirit,” Woods Bagot comments.

While the northern boundary houses the low-scale townhouses behind a new façade of Red Blue Krause bricks and concrete, the south façade is home to the higher density apartments (including two basement levels and five contemporary levels) sitting directly behind the original C.F. Rojo and Sons façade. This extends upwards to a setback, providing a break between old and new using a “lightweight piano nobile veiled by a filigree of metallic louvres” according to Woods Bagot. A lush garden terrace then softens these metal-clad, luxury penthouses, completing the design.

To connect this collection of dwellings, and increase the sense of community, a private laneway of Red Blue brick tiles runs between the apartments and townhouses. Bentwood café, snugly nestled below the apartments, not only offers great food and coffee, but also thoughtfully references C.F. Row’s material choice, creating a truly holistic project.

Material selection was an important aspect of the project as it would reflect the craftsmanship of the site’s heritage, and provide a tailored, industrial feel. The locally manufactured Krause bricks, for instance, perfectly complemented the historical site, and were chosen “for their textural, high quality feel and their offering of both tile and full brick products.”

The availability of Krause bricks in both face brickwork and brick tiles was another added bonus. Woods Bagot used Krause bricks to easily conceal a number of priority services within the wall with the tiles creating cavities that allowed them to run those services through, while selecting a combination of the two throughout allowed them to use brickwork on multiple surfaces with ease.

DealCorp’s award winning development, C.F. Row won the 2018 Australian Institute of Architects, Victorian Architecture Award for Residential Architecture - Multiple Housing, and was a contender for the national awards. It’s also a nominee in the 2018 Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Awards for Medium Density Housing and Urban Renewal categories, to be announced in December.

C.F. Row is indeed a beautifully cohesive design that has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from DealCorp, its occupants and the entire Fitzroy community.

Photographer: Trevor Mein