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   Jul 05

Melbourne flooded with “small and “poorly designed” apartments

Architect Craig Yelland. Photo: Eddie JimApartments with not enough space for basic activities such as eating at a dinner table are being planned for a new giant tower in the centre of Melbourne.
Nanjing Night Net

It comes amid warnings the city is being flooded with small and often poorly designed units while new standards for apartments are still at least a year away.

The latest plan to anger Melbourne City Council officials is a tower proposed for 280 Queen Street that, if built, would stand 250 metres – similar to the Rialto Towers.

The pen-shaped building by developer Brady Group has been branded too tall and bulky by council planners, who also found many of its 589 planned units were undersized.

In a report to council, the planners said: “We note that many of the apartments are too small to allow for basic daily activities and functions such as eating at a dining table, or having a dressing table in the bedroom whilst maintaining access to the wardrobe.”

Although there was praise for the inclusion of 46 three-bedroom apartments, the planners said most of these dwellings were less than 70 square metres – the minimum size for a two-bedroom apartment in Sydney.

According to council research, many bedrooms in Melbourne’s high-rises do not have direct access to natural light. And there is a growing trend towards shrinking floor plans, with 40 per cent of the city’s apartments less than 50 square metres.

Council planners said  while small apartments with good levels of amenity do exist, they were rare in Melbourne’s high-rise housing market.

“Here, small and often poorly designed one and two bedroom apartments are the dominant product.”

A number of apartments advertised for sale in Melbourne’s CBD have kitchens squeezed into a hallway corridor. Many have bedrooms without windows.

In a two-bedroom Russell Place apartment advertised for $350,000, the second bedroom has no windows or natural light and is only 5.04 square metres in size.

This layout drew criticism from architect Craig Yelland, a vocal supporter of well-designed small apartments . He said second bedrooms that  did not have a line of sight to an external window should either not be allowed or be labelled a study.

But Mr Yelland supported a design style that has fallen out of favour with the city council – those with “borrowed light”. He said where bedrooms were connected with open-plan living rooms by sliding doors, residents were able to take advantage of the fresh air, views and light from the adjoining space.

“So you can sit in bed and look at a lovely view which is three metres and four metres away,” he said.

Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne has promised to improve the standard of apartment design in Melbourne, but it will be another year before guidelines are finalised. A discussion paper was released in May.

Mr Wynne said projects that came before him in the interim would be “thoroughly scrutinised for amenity”.

“I want to encourage smart design and innovation, and any issued raised as part of the council’s assessment process will be taken into account,” he said.

The Australian Institute of Architects is pushing for a flexible system under which a design review panel would be able to approve innovative designs that might otherwise be knocked back  under a set of rigid minimum standards.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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