A beautiful combination of Petersen bricks is part of the materials palette chosen for an award-winning apartment complex in Sydney’s inner west. The Rochford is a new 76-apartment project, which was recently awarded the New South Wales’ Aaron Bolot Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (Multiple Housing) at the 2018 NSW Architecture Awards. A well-deserved award for the development, which not only celebrates design excellence and innovative thinking but also shows how apartment living can provide amenity and a sense of home, just like the terraces and freestanding homes in the neighbourhood.

For the Fox Johnston design team, The Rochford was all about building a collection of houses, rather than a block of apartments. Brad Phillips, Associate, Fox Johnston explains, “This was more of an amalgamation of ‘houses’ that are more about the quality of the spaces, and treating each of those spaces so they would feel like a home, with green landscaping wrapping around each, presenting that green indoor/outdoor space on every single apartment.”

Developed for the owner-occupier market in the increasingly urbanised Erskineville area, The Rochford is a six-level building featuring high quality design, details and material choice, while also paying respect to the surrounding terraces and homes, and breaking down the building mass.

Brad explained that the significant amount of zoning led to big building masses; to break down this massing, they decided to reincorporate the fine grain nature into the building, which was achieved by introducing garden spaces, and also texturally with the material choice.

“We wanted robust materials that age or patina quite beautifully over a longer period of time, so we went as close to natural or traditional material selection,” continues Brad. So brick, concrete and a FunderMax composite panel were selected for the exterior, along with timber and glass throughout the interior.

A beautiful combination of Petersen D58 and D76 bricks has been used in a Hamborg format on the garden beds on the ground floor, and the main building, respectively.

This is the first time Fox Johnston has used Petersen bricks and they couldn’t be happier with the outcome. The design team particularly loved the artisan nature of the bricks and their variation, which removed the typical repetitiveness seen in brickwork.

“We didn’t want a repetitive notion, rather we designed the facades around a rational form that expresses variation and handcrafted materials,” says Brad. “You can see that so much craftsmanship goes into selecting the bricks and putting them together, and it suited the look that we were after in taking inspiration from the fine grain of the terraces in neighbouring streets,” Brad continues.

In fact, it’s the combination of materials that Fox Johnston loves most about the design, in breaking down the scale and seamlessly linking the internal living spaces to the outdoor areas on every apartment. Brad comments, “We’ve incorporated an indoor-outdoor feel to every apartment with some element of landscaping or private terrace that makes the apartment feel generous, regardless of its location in the building or size. And I also really like the community feel with communal spaces we have designed on the rooftop.”

And like most architects, once they use Petersen bricks, they can’t get enough of them. Fox Johnston has specified them for many houses with the mix of different formats, and even for apartments that are still in the approval stage.

Photographer: Brett Boardman