Forget austere institutional social housing – ARM Architecture creates a thoughtful building for homing at risk women and children that is safe, social, vibrant and homely

Designed by ARM Architecture

From the architects:

A $30 million build-to-rent project designed to support at-risk women and children is a first of its kind in Australia.

Known as Viv’s Place, the building will provide permanent housing with wrap-around support services to provide a fresh start for up to 60 women and 130 children escaping family violence and homelessness. 

Viv’s Place is designed by architects ARM Architecture for Specialist Homelessness Organisation Launch Housing. 

The project is the shared culmination of seven years of research and consultation informing the end result.

The housing is designed around a unique accommodation model, tailored to caring for women and families, giving access to skills classes, healthcare and legal practitioners that are on-site, with permanent and specially designed rooms for ongoing consultative care.

Designed with these occupants in mind, the project aims to reset the thinking of what Australian social housing can be and question the assumptions of what people need most from apartment living.

Based on an intelligent operational model, and working to tight budgets, Viv’s Place seeks to be generous or abundant in every sense – spatially, functionally, aesthetically, and communally - a building that can be both safe and sanctuary-like, beautiful and proud.

The building steers away from habitual apartment design through wrapping exteriors and interiors with materials, patterns and colour that are more in the tradition of the home – terracotta tiles, coloured wallpapering, wrought iron lacework, fencing and garden motifs.

Given the clientele for this building, we have designed a vibrant colourful, patterned building, which deliberately moves away from social housing models that are austere and institutional in both appearance and function, says ARM director Andrew Lilleyman.

“The building really takes on its own identity," he says. "The design replicates motifs that are intended to emphasise a space of sanctuary – spaces within, which harness and develop growth and prosperity.”

Alongside 60 generously sized apartments, some with dual-key access for large families, the project employs trauma-informed design principles with the inclusion of communal spaces and amenities designed as an extension of resident’s apartments. 

These residential-themed spaces promote connectivity and comfort between occupants, while at the same time promote a sense of home and safety. 

This includes a communal lounge, family games area, a range of children’s spaces as well an outdoor terrace and garden.

“We looked at models like the Sugar Hill project in Manhattan, which was one of New York’s first displays of social housing that sought to incorporate programs for its residents,” says


“The shared recreation spaces encourage residents to connect with their neighbours, and the range of services and classes have been incorporated to assist in finding wellness and confidence once again.”

Launch Housing chief executive officer, Bevan Warner said: “There is nothing else like this in Australia, and we are pleased to be able to work with ARM Architecture to provide a prototype for future social housing establishments that steer away from institutional design,” says Warner.

“We look forward to providing a safe home and support to vulnerable women and children and our hope is that Viv’s Place will act as an exemplar for a new style of build-to-rent and social housing projects for the future.”

“The approach to addressing family and domestic violence and homelessness in Victoria needs to have a greater focus on permanent supportive housing as this model is proven to provide lasting solutions for families who need stability, security and support to rebuild their lives.”

Forty percent of the project has been supported by the Victorian Government, with remaining funding donated through the philanthropic community and individual donors – including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Shine On Foundation, Ian Potter Foundation, Gandel Foundation, as well as the Friday family of Melbourne.

This collaboration between ARM Architecture and Launch Housing’s housing complements their partnership for the Bellfield social housing project, located in Melbourne’s west, which is slated for completion in September 2023.

ARM Architecture has further been appointed as the architect for a new general social housing project, as part of the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Fund.

Designed by: Arm Architecture

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Tatjana Plitt

16 Oct, 2022

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