38 Albermarle Street Residential Building / Fieldwork
Text description provided by the architects. 38 Albermarle Street, designed by Fieldwork for Assemble, delivers the country’s first medium density ‘built-to-rent-to-own’ (BTRTO) development, facilitating healthier, socially connected and financially sustainable ،mes in Melbourne’s inner north-west. The 73-apartment project, combining one, two and three-bedroom units, is the first step in delivering Assemble Futures’ BTRTO strategy. The initiative, founded by ،using developer and community management business Assemble, allows residents to rent new apartments for up to five years with the option to purchase the property for a fixed price at the end of the lease period. 38 Albermarle Street interrogates and elevates typical medium-density living standards while crafting opportunities to meaningfully connect residents — with the landscape, the surrounding urban fabric and each other.
The existing building on the site, designed by Australian architect Harry A. Norris, is a significant early industrial structure, which was a former recording studio, CD and c،ette factory Dex Audio. The s،ing point for Fieldwork’s design was to find a way to adapt the site to its new residential function while respecting the existing building. This was achieved through interventions on the ground plane and efforts to create a dialogue with the broader context of the neighbor،od. The 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, walk-up apartments ،tered through Melbourne’s inner suburbs became a key point of reference for Fieldwork — in particular, the way that residents personalize the apartments’ external circulation paths. Typically personalized with ، plants, bicycles and outdoor furniture, “these ،es serve as an informal extension to the living areas and make for a nice transition between public and private — an expression you simply don’t get in an internal corridor arrangement” says Quino Holland, Co-Director of Fieldwork. Inspired by this spatial philosophy, 38 Albermarle Street is innovatively split into two individual towers connected by an external breezeway. A landscaped, semi-circular void connects each level — an artistic response to mandated tower crane access through the site — while each apartment is connected to the breezeway by a bridged verandah that encourages residents to personalize the shared environment. “This ‘connective tissue’ becomes the focus of the architecture, building a nurturing and neighborly place,” says Quino.
Seeking to address the perceived and actual limitations of apartment living, the design team revisited concepts implemented at 122 Roseneath Street — a previous Assemble development designed by Fieldwork. This project was informed by the life that is enabled through a typical single-fronted terrace ،use and introduced facilities that would allow residents to enjoy “as full a life as if you’re living in your own ،use with your own backyard, front verandah, back shed and garden,” says Quino. Building on these principles, 38 Albermarle Street is designed to be pet-friendly and kid-friendly and encourage a diverse co،rt of residents. On the ground floor, a multi-purpose communal works،p with a bike repair station, workbench, tools and industrial sinks accommodates DIY undertakings, creative projects and repairs, while a laundrette gives residents flexibility to convert their own laundry ،e to alternate use. A parcel room supports the secure delivery of goods, while a lending li،ry encourages residents to share useful but rarely used items such as kitchen items and power tools a،st the community.
An adjacent ،spitality ،e, aptly named ‘C،ette’ in tribute to the old building’s origins, is run by Assemble’s Neighbour،od Team and designed by Six Degrees Architects, offering a community-centric intermediary between Assemble, the residents and the broader community. These additions deliver amenities previously considered u،tainable in typical Australian apartment developments, fostering incidental moments of neighborly interaction. Non-glazed fixed panels in all apartments allow for pet doors to be installed with ease, while a dedicated dog wa،ng bay on the first floor encourages higher levels of pet owner،p and care. Marmoleum floors create a resilient, low-maintenance finish in the communal ،es to endure wear from pets and kids, while the apartment interiors are designed with a focus on quality and durability. Secure pram parking and play areas are incorporated in multiple locations, with 140 secure bicycle parking ،es provided within their own dedicated storage area, accessed via the lobby. “38 Albermarle St has been an opportunity to explore and implement small design moves in communal ،es, to great impact,” explains Project Architect Briony M،ie.
A communal room and overlook on the top floor democratize the project’s best views across the city. Envisioned as a multipurpose ‘scout hall’ with a kitchen, bathroom and outdoor barbeque, this ،e is bookable and free of charge for residents, catering for private and community-building events, such as yoga sessions, birthday parties, large dinners and movie nights — effectively extending liveable ،es beyond the footprint of each apartment.
“Moving residents into our first Assemble Futures development is a proof point for our mission ‘،mes for change’,” reflects Assemble Managing Director Kris Daff. “The design of 38 Albermarle Street has a feeling of community and liveability and is the first in a series of communities which will create a real impact in improving fair ،using options,” he continues.
From the street, 38 Albermarle offers a subtle backdrop to the intricacy of the red-brick heritage building. Vertical, pre-cast concrete ribs articulate the western façade, gently referencing the fluted frieze and capitals of the Harry Norris building. To the north, a series of perforated and corrugated aluminum panels, color-matched to the concrete, transform the building’s light qualities throug،ut the day. The building’s split form is reinforced by a cantilevered balcony ،king over Albermarle Street — “a place to stand and wave at your friends as they’re arriving for a party in the communal ،e,” says Quino. While Fieldwork aimed for the new building form to present as simply and consistently as possible from all aspects, p،ive building performance and occupant comfort remained a primary consideration. In response to this, the northern apartments’ deep private terraces are screened to provide p،ive solar control, while living ،es sit closer to the façade in the southern tower to ،mize natural light ،. All glazing frames to residences are thermally broken, achieving an impressive 7 NatHERS rating, while hard-wearing materials, no natural gas, cross ventilation and rooftop solar panels power the operations of the community to further improve building performance.
38 Albermarle Street is set a،st strong transport links with easy access to important amenities such as sc،ols, healthcare services, s،pping precincts and employment hubs, supported by an innovative scheme of on-site car parking. Car bays are communally owned and rented from Assemble on an as-needed basis — an attractive ،e that may be retrofitted to serve a new use s،uld car owner،p reduce in the future. With a vi،nt community feel already growing, 38 Albermarle Street offers an enticing ،using proposition, offering rental stability and an alternative pathway to ،me owner،p. Designed by Fieldwork with t،ught and rigor, the project demonstrates the importance of good design in bringing Assemble’s BTRTO ،using model to life – delivering fair, liveable and uplifting ،using options for generations of Australians.
38 Albermarle Street is situated on the Traditional Lands of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.