Stable beginnings

Four contemporary loft-style apartments sit behind this solid, brick facade, once the original stables of an old sugar refinery

Legend plan of the building. architecture, area, design, diagram, drawing, elevation, facade, floor plan, home, line, product design, residential area, shed, structure, white
Legend plan of the building.

Increasingly, building owners and architects are appreciating the value of preserving or sensitively redeveloping our more interesting historic city landmarks.

Architect Jon Johannsen was approached by developer Lend Lease to adapt the stable building of the old CSR sugar refinery and give it a new purpose as loft-style apartments. These are in the Jackson's Landing Community, a waterfront village developed by Lend Lease.

Constructed in 1920, the building was once the centre of a large stables complex. During the building's working life, wings had been added onto two sides, although these had gradually deteriorated and been demolished. However, due to the solid masonry construction, the main stables building had survived in a reasonable state.

"Our brief was to design apartments that took advantage of the existing building envelope. After looking at various options, we felt loft-style accommodation allowed us to best utilise the whole space, including a potential attic area that was available within the old trusses of the original roof framing," Johansen says.

So, rather than breaking the stables horizontally into single-level apartments, the final design created four two-level townhouses, each with a third mezzanine level within the roof space.

To keep the building's character intact, the original brickwork was retained and cleaned, and new detailing was expressed in contemporary but compatible materials.

"This allowed us to maximise the experience of the old building and utilise as much of the fabric as possible, both outside and internally. We wanted to treat the memories of the building sensitively and express them through the details, so the new and old can both be clearly read and distinguished from each other."

Close up view ofthe kitchen, wooden floor, spot cabinetry, countertop, cuisine classique, interior design, kitchen, property, real estate, room, under cabinet lighting, brown
Close up view ofthe kitchen, wooden floor, spot lights in the ceiling, white walls, black backsplash, stailees steel benchtops, rangehood, oven, microwave, sink and faucetry, white and glass cabinetry.

Hence, materials such as bricks, steel, metal and timber, which were part of the old stables' construction, feature both on the exterior and inside the building.

To identify and refer to the envelope of the missing wings, two new steel structures were added to either side of the building. These frames also draw attention to the front entrances to the four apartments - two on each side of the building.

Balconies are also new, added to provide outdoor living areas for the apartments.

"We consulted a heritage architect to ensure the origins of the building were not compromised by our additions. The balconies are constructed from steel framing with contemporary details, so they read as new elements. The use of steel also refers to the stables' original industrial purpose," he says.

Large sheets of pre-rusted steel that provide privacy between the balconies of adjoining apartments also reference the building's industrial past.

Internally, the developer's brief was for a contemporary insertion into the existing envelope.

"We wanted the interiors of the apartments to be elegant, but not overly detailed, and they also needed to complement, without dominating the building's heritage character," says the architect.

View of a large brick house, many steel building, condominium, facade, home, house, mixed use, property, real estate, residential area, teal
View of a large brick house, many steel balcolnies, concrete tiled stpes with a steel handrail, small gardens, steel louvres.

Materials such as blackened steel on the internal handrails and tongue-and-groove ceilings complement the original structure, although they are expressed in a contemporary way.

Unfortunately, the original floor was in such poor condition that it had to be replaced. However, recycled blackbutt was sourced and laid onto the original ironbark structural beams, which are exposed and can be seen in the ceilings in the ground level bedrooms.

To create a contemporary feel in the entry stairwell and main living area, dining room and kitchen, this space has been kept as one large open-plan area. The mezzanine space is also open, and exposed roof trusses emphasise the age and heritage of the old building.

Lightweight partitions separate the bedrooms on the ground floor, so these spaces can be adapted if required. Elsewhere, the existing brick interior walls are rendered, and where the bricks are in good condition, they have been left exposed.

The windows of the old stables were steel-framed, but because of their poor condition they needed to be replaced. The new galvanised steel frames are left to mellow over time, another feature that enhances the building's industrial nature.

Credit list

Jon Johannsen, Architects Johannsen + Associates (AJA)
Lend Lease Development
Structural engineer
Taylor Thompson Whitting
Landscape design
Fire consultant
BCA-Philip Chun and Associates
Facade design and construction
Structural steel with painted Ferrador finish
Balcony and balustrade installation
Strutco Steel
Ironbark structure, recycled blackbutt
Ace Ceramics
Acousta wall system
Oven and cooktop
Omega Smeg
Fisher & Paykel
Sebastian Monroe, Yvette Hayes, AJA
Interior designer
Airlie McConnell, AJA
Mechanical and civil engineer
George Floth Engineering
Universal Subcontractors
Corrugated roof sheeting
Specialty Hardware
Balconies and balustrades
Painted Ferrador
Window treatment
Ironwood, polished recycled blackbutt
CBUS lighting system
Hi-Tec Fittings

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