At the time of construction high rise public housing in the 1960s and 1970s was seen to be the solution to housing Melbourne’s disadvantaged.

Today it is commonly recognised that these ‘towers’, some up to 22 storeys in height, have isolated its residents from the feeling of being a part of a community.  These towers which are separated by large expanses of public open space generally have no balconies are often ‘closed off’ from any engagement with the surrounding environment.

Some of these towers have been demolished and more recent examples of public housing typically seek to achieve higher density though the construction of more buildings at a lower scale (around 6 storeys in height) on the land.

Back in 2007 the Victorian Government through the Office of Housing sponsored a competition for innovative ideas and treatments for the exterior of the 12 storey high rise public housing tower in Gordon Street, Footscray.  BKK Architects won the competition and has since been commissioned to undertake development works on the site.

BKK Architects design is based on using prefabricated pods to create façade interest and to ‘open up’ the dwellings by providing individual balconies.

In addition, the design provides for each dwelling to be refurbished and to achieve a higher level of energy efficiency through the installation of double glazed windows and wall insulation.

The project demonstrates how the adaptable reuse of an existing building can significantly improve livability for residents.

The innovation of this project, which is still under construction, has been recognised by the Victorian Architecture Awards 2012 through its award in the small project category.

Contact James Milllion (jjm@colliepl.com.au)