Arncliffe rejuvenation embraces Country and equality in mixed tenure housing precinct

By Anthea Belessis
Nov 24, '22 12:43 PM EST

The architects behind the 1.34 ha approved State Significant Development at Eden St, Arncliffe have revealed their bold plans for the mixed-tenure community – integrating 180 social housing units with 564 main-market residential units of equitable scale, design and amenity.

The masterplan designed by GroupGSA at 26-42 Eden Street and 161-179 Princes Highway, Arncliffe, is being delivered under the NSW Land and Housing Corporation’s (LAHC) 'Future Directions’ policy. The project is led by its development partner Billbergia and Social Housing Provider (CHP), Evolve Housing.

The residential offering will span four towers of heights varying from 18 to 21 storeys, with a mixed-use precinct offering vibrant retail and civic space.

Building C will be returned to the site’s existing owners, LaHC, as a dedicated social housing tower under its Communities Plus portfolio, with the social housing component to be managed by provider Evolve Housing.

The first residential tower, Building B is now open for expression of interest and the on-site display suit is taking inspections.

GroupGSA Strategic Design Lead Lisa-Maree Carrigan said the redevelopment addressed the rising demand for greater housing choice in Sydney’s south while reflecting the cultural context of the Bayside West community.

“Merging social housing with general residential apartments will encourage engagement between all social strata and foster inclusivity,” Carrigan said.

Latest Census data indicates population growth to more than double (51%) in the Arncliffe-Bardwell Valley area from 2020 (28,517) to 2041 (40,033) to accommodate a population density of 8,619 people/sq km.

“There is a huge need for not just housing and social housing in the Arncliffe area, but also retail amenity,” Carrigan said. “Market reporting reveals the quantity of retail is grossly failing to meet the current community, let alone when you consider projected growth tipped for the area.”

The masterplan includes a new childcare facility, a supermarket with supporting retail, an ‘eat street’ restaurant and café precinct, with basement car parking for retail and residents.

“A generous 4,000 sqm of public parkland and an additional 1,000 sq m public plaza will be handed back to the community,” Carrigan said.

The community parkland will improve a through-site link onto Eden St, leveraging the site’s walking proximity to Arncliffe train station, which enables access to the CBD in 10 minutes.

“The Eden St precinct will become a place of connection and authenticity, which is strongly grounded in community, place and Country,” Carrigan said. “It will be a vibrant place to make friends, to live in close proximity to employment and schools, to connect with nature and to create a life-long connection with place.”

Equitable housing design

The standalone social housing tower will front Eden St – a residential street – positioned close to the train station. It replaces – and expands – the existing obsolete 80-year-old social housing tenure on the site with a contemporary tower that is “no less in quality than the build-to-sell apartments within the precinct,” Carrigan said.

“The social housing is designed to be main-market quality with all residents across the precinct enjoying the same high standard of finishes and layouts,” Carrigan said.

“We are focused on equitable mixed tenure precincts leading to positive social outcomes.”

The social housing component will sit on a podium that's engaged with the rest of the site, above the planned childcare facility and overlooking a children’s play area and public space. A rooftop communal garden and community area will be located on top of the building, with exceptional views over Botany Bay.

Strong Indigenous connection to Country

Located on Gweagal, Bidjigal and Gadigal Country, a key component of the design response is a co-design narrative led by WSP with local Elders and the project team.

The material expression of the architectural and landscape elements integrates Aboriginal design principles derived through consultation with WSP’s Indigenous Specialist Services.

Buildings A and B are inspired by the local landscape, with water elements and the La Perouse and Arncliffe cliffs influencing the architecture.

“Building A is informed by the water and the air in terms of indigenous lore,” Carrigan said. “The podium design of Building A features scaled teal-coloured zinc panelling – almost like architectural fish scales - that essentially wraps around the building.”

Meanwhile, the subterranean and formative parts of the earth inform the façade of Building B, which imbues a richer palette of earth-stained aggregate concrete with a natural colour brick-skinned podium. Using concrete and curvaceous form, the architecture is dotted with plants – much like you get in sandstone crops. Planters extend the height of the Buildings A and B to perceive the nearby parkland as wrapping up the breadth of the towers.

“Building D, which is close to the Princes Highway, takes its form from the dark greys of a spent banksia seed pod, featuring a dark charcoal palette and light concrete base with black ‘popped out’ steel-framed windows to mimic the husk,” Carrigan said.

Building C (the social housing tower) is an interpretation of the banksia integrifolia in full bloom. It adopts a warm colour palette, with architectural ‘fins’ lining the building, inspired by the flower stamen.

The project also consulted Auntie Yvonne Sims, Elder of the Bidjigal people, and Indigigrow led by Uncle Peter Cooley in the landscape design, which will include plantings of significant portions of native species, including the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub.

“GroupGSA’s landscape architects have developed an abstracted play area, based on indigenous flora in a co-design process with Auntie Yvonne, who is very passionate about in social housing, safety for children, observable play spaces and providing enhanced amenity for children,” Carrigan said.

Other design interventions include cultural markers and the incorporation of gathering places and quiet places to connect.