CITY LIVING AT THE SEASIDE: Sculpted forms for a new seaside apartment building

CITY LIVING AT THE SEASIDE: Sculpted forms for a new seaside apartment building

Fox johnston architects
Little Bay, Sydney, Australia
Project Year
Brett Boardman

CITY LIVING AT THE SEASIDE: Sculpted forms for a new seaside apartment building

Fox johnston architects as Architects

This new apartment building in a Sydney southern beachside suburb stands apart from its neighbours, using sleek urban sculptural forms and urban materials to carve out a different, more urban, way of living by the sea.

Traditionally, apartments on Australia’s spectacular eastern coastline were not designed for year-round living. They grew out of a ‘summer holiday’ short-term occupancy tradition, characterised by inexpensive construction, cheap and cheerful materials, ill-considered layouts and poor thermal control. As a result, older coastal apartments can be uncomfortable to live in year-round, and are ill equipped to deal with the harsh conditions that come with close proximity to the sea: high summer heat, fierce on-shore winds at the end of the day, sea spray, salt laden corrosive air, and noisy neighbours. Much energy is wasted heating and cooling internal spaces to deal with summer heat and winter chills.

With this in mind Fox Johnston conceived this newly completed 45-apartment complex, SOLIS at Little Bay to Sydney’s south, as a new kind of seaside apartment living: more a sophisticated, high quality urban complex -bythe- sea, albeit one with beach-living characteristics and a relaxed seaside vibe, than a holiday flat. They also wanted to design a building that had minimal impact on the fragile coastal environment in which it sits, and one that conserves and efficiently uses both energy and rainwater.

Part of the wider Little Bay community, SOLIS sits on a remarkable site on 13.6 hectares of rare oceanfront land – with exposure to a naturally spectacular and at times, unforgiving rugged coastline.

“Australian coastal environments like this are particularly harsh: too much wind, sun and salt. At certain times of the day, it can feel like you are on the prow of a ship, being buffeted by 100km per hour winds,” says Fox Johnston Director Conrad Johnston. “Older apartments are always too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

“We have designed the building with this front of mind. At the same time, it is obviously important to maintain maximum access to sunlight, views and airflow, but to be able to manage these throughout the day more effectively as conditions change.”

Approaching from the north, the visitor first sees a distinctive, curved steel-clad five storey form, as the building turns its back to the road in favour of the spectacular coastal views. Four floors of apartments, each with its own scissorshaped north facing balcony and strong horizontal lines, are bookended by another strong sculptural form at the eastern end. The building comprises three parts: the central volume houses one bedroom and study apartments, with eastern and western building volumes housing mainly two bedroom apartments. Each apartment in the central section runs the full width of the building and is accessed via walkways at the rear of the building, again with strong horizontal lines defined by steel screens.

SOLIS’s distinctive scissor shaped balconies ensure full northerly orientation and maximum sunshine for every apartment - creating a dynamic dialogue with its new neighbours to the north and east as well as the central Urban Lounge. Each apartment has been sensitively designed to give complete cross ventilation - with the ability to open up or close down spaces as desired, during the day and at various times during the year. Natural sunlight filters through bedroom and living spaces throughout the day with adjustable sun shading screens controlling the preferred environment. These living and bedroom spaces will benefit from opening onto large private terraces, offering a seamless connection between outside and in.

Given the building’s proximity to the sea, Fox Johnston has used elegant, durable, external cladding and wall finishes with inbuilt longevity – face brick, metal cladding, concrete and steel. Internal spaces are finely crafted and use natural Australian, spotted gum timber floors and joinery, and stone kitchens.

Environmental sustainability and energy conservation are major objectives for the Little Bay precinct as a whole, and for this building in particular. “A key driver for the design was our desire to reduce environmental impact through energy and water reduction, minimising waste, stormwater and rainwater management and promoting biodiversity,” says Conrad Johnston. Close proximity to the ocean and sensitive marine environments has motivated outstanding water use and treatment initiatives. An integrated water cycle ensures wastewater is recycled for reuse in dwellings as well as the near by public parks and golf course. All stormwater and rainwater is treated through a series of swales and bio-filtration ponds, improving water quality before discharging.

The orientation and linear proportions of the design allow passive heating and cooling to be maximised. Direct solar access is achieved all year round in 100% of apartments. Each and every apartment also boasts duel aspect and a balcony allowing natural ventilation.

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