Brutalist Block Party - community event
122 Roseneath St. in partnership with Assemble, Wulff and designed by Fieldwork Architecture
17 Jul 2017 / News
How community engagement makes for better design

At ICON we believe in consulting with the communities our projects are a part of. After all, who better understands what a community needs than its locals? Best of all, engaging with local people and potential buyers can lead to better design outcomes, enhancing individual lifestyles and positively influencing the built environment.

These principles guided 122 Roseneath St. in Clifton Hill, Melbourne, a development we are working on in collaboration with Assemble, Wulff and Fieldwork. The project team engaged in extensive consultation with Clifton Hill residents well before drafting the design of the project.

“The project team actively sought community feedback and encouraged people to have their say on the design,” says ICON director Ashley Murdoch.

The project team listened. Based on feedback, the community wanted to see a diverse mix of dwellings, from studio and one-bedroom apartments to larger apartments and townhouses. The project team learned that people were passionate about the quality of the buildings that would go up in their community; their desires aligned with own, to build a legacy-focused project that would stand the test of time.

Local residents communicated that they wanted fewer townhouses in the design. Rather than this leading to the familiar narrative of conflict between community and developers the project team were able to accommodate the input. By keeping dialogue open the team heard that people wanted fewer townhouses – and an increased setback – but they were comfortable with an increased height (to six storeys) in less sensitive parts of the footprint.

“The community engagement process was incredibly positive for the entire project team,” Murdoch says.

“The most obvious benefit was avoiding going to VCAT, but I think developing a project that has earned its community’s support is its own reward. We now have a project to be proud of. It aligns with our values and sets a standard for the future.”

The community-driven approach led to good relations with council, with the City of Yarra officially granting the project a permit in 2016. This, with local support behind it, meant 122 Roseneath St. could avoid going to the tribunal.

A second stage of consultation – with potential buyers ­­– followed the initial round of community engagement. The project team hosted 12 design presentations for potential residents, in which the proposal was presented and feedback was sought to better understand their preferences.

Potential residents were consulted on communal facilities such as a social room and roof deck, the types of ground floor retail tenancies they would like, car parking and sustainability features, including external shutters, an embedded energy network and bicycle parking to fully connect 122 Roseneath St. to the nearby Merri Creek cycle trail.

“At 122 Roseneath St. the traditional model where a developer assumes they know what people want was inverted. Instead, by having a conversation, the project team collaboratively developed a meticulously designed and responsive piece of architecture,” says Murdoch.

“122 Roseneath St. is a better design because of this process; it is also more attuned to the needs of its residents and the wider community.”