Collective Housing – Zetland

An innovative housing project that develops new configurations of collective space in the heart of Zetland. The project will make a critical contribution to the character and vitality of this urban renewal area and provide Sydney with much needed housing stock close to areas of employment and recreation. The location is ideal for higher density housing being well connected to transport and public facilities such as the recently announced and magnificent Green Square Aquatic Centre and Gunyama Park.

RAW Architects design and approach to the project was organised and understood through four interrelated themes – Living Systems, Social Infrastructure, Housing Innovation and Material Efficiency. Through these themes we respond to essential issues in the site, brief, context and controls.

Ground Floor Plan – A “share-shed”  housing car-share, garden and power tools, bicycle share and furniture swap sits in the centre of the Courtyard as mission control for all sharing in the building

Sustainability permeates all decisions on the project. The project and its parts are conceived of as a framework or scaffold within which activities and systems that prioritise lower energy and a more sustainable existence can thrive. Our design aims to weave these systems into the everyday lives of the residents in a gentle and seamless way.

Street view – Prefabricated masonry facades. Social Courts – The primary social spaces of the project sit at the interface between the public and common areas. Communal roof gardens – Four levels above the street.

The ‘urban’ levels wraps the full extent of the building, creating a visual consistency. It forms a strong and iconic building edge, providing visual appeal from the street while mindfully protecting the privacy of residents. Each apartment has a balcony that is like an “external room”, to which living rooms and bedrooms can open up to directly.

We call these spaces Social Courts and they are characterised by a recess in the building facade, a meandering sitting ledge and a large feature tree gesturing the entry and providing lingering shade. Much of the visitor bicycle parking is located in these social courts, combining easy access and passive surveillance with a healthy lifestyle.

Music Utility Rooms flank the Social Courts and are accessible from both the public and residents domains. These flexible spaces of around 65 sqm are bookable by residents of the building. They are ideal for rehearsal and presentations in music, arts and crafts as well as small gatherings and parties. Social Courts connect up with the primary Mews circulation of outdoor spaces at ground floor.

These gardens enjoy the sunnier upper levels of the buildings where there is enough sun for the small scaled production of fruit and vegetables. Shared outdoor kitchens make these gardens a ‘sticky’ space for residents to hang on the weekend, grow and share a meal together. There are many small garden plots for allocation to interested residents.

Other uses located on the Communal Garden levels include shared laundries, generous clothes lines, composting and worm farms, and rainwater collection and distribution systems. Not only do theses social exchanges amplify any great place-making effects in the architecture, they engender a sense of collective ownership and civic pride amongst the residents.

The layout of the apartments builds on tried and true typologies promoting diversity and choice within the building and providing opportunity for adaptation over time.

Upper Sky Level apartments (left) have linear or perimeter balconies that are enveloped by an over-scaled screen to provide a warm interstitial space. Living rooms open through these private loggia at the most exposed levels of the building.

Lower Urban and Garden levels have deep-set balconies offering greater privacy. The spaces offer an outdoor room within the apartment that is integral to the movement patterns across the plan. Living room windows are located right on the facade maximising winter insolation.

Adaptability – Numerous apartment types are able to be adapted to alternative future configurations suiting the needs of investors and users.

Fifth to Seventh Floor Plan (Sky levels) – Communal garden patches dominate the sun-filled upper roof levels and combine with outdoor kitchens and seating areas to facilitate social interaction. Sky level apartments with perimeter balconies.

Internal overshadowing is reduced by the receding form of the upper levels. When viewed from the Mews at ground level the effective height of the inner Court parapet will only be five storeys. More expansive views to the sky are available and greater solar access is provided to this tranquil inner space.


PROJECT: Sky Ultra Apartments
TYPE: High Density Housing
CLIENT: Private Developer
YEAR: 2014
AREA: 21,996 sqm (262 apartments)
SERVICE: Design Excellence Competition
TEAM: Adam Russell, Brooke Jackson, Vesna Trobec with Kann Finch
JOB NO: 1432