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Queensland needs to expand its range of housing options to meet contemporary community, urban and future environmental challenges.

The purpose of the Density and Diversity Done Well competition was to explore what might be called “the missing middle” and to propose new housing options for Queensland that meet contemporary community, urban and environmental challenges and provoke thought as to possible solutions to these challenges.

Many Queenslanders have grown up and raised families in standard three-bedroom houses on suburban blocks. More recently, high-rise apartment style living has become more available, particularly in areas close to public transport.

The ‘missing middle’ is a term used to describe dwellings between high-rise, high-density living and free standing, suburban family homes. It is a range of liveable solutions that Queensland has traditionally been reluctant to explore, let alone widely implement.

The ideas competition was sponsored by key groups in Queensland’s housing industry. It was open to multidisciplinary teams that included architects, building designers, planners, landscape architects and urban designers, and attracted 100 submissions from across Australia.

The challenge

The challenge was simple: be a good neighbour and create a good neighbourhood.

Each designer:

  • started with a typical neighbourhood block containing 20 dwellings that housed around 60 people in total (three occupants per house on average)
  • could choose to retain, raise, move or demolish the existing dwelling or dwellings, and determine building setbacks, parking and open space requirements
  • was encouraged to ‘break the rules’ and think outside the box.

The winning entries cover a wide variety of building types from micro-housing through to compact apartments. They clearly demonstrate the ‘missing middle’s huge potential for both variety and capacity to house more people in the same place with good amenity.

The jury

The competition jury comprised of six members:

  • Mr Malcolm Middleton, (Chair) Queensland Government Architect
  • Ms Marina Vit, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Development Institute of Australia Queensland (UDIA Qld)
  • Professor Brit Andresen, Representing the AIA (Queensland Chapter)
  • Mr John Byrne, Representing the PIA (Queensland Chapter)
  • Ms Kerry Riethmuller, Executive Director, Regional and Spatial Planning, Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
  • Dr Malcolm Holz, Acting Director, Innovation and Futures Unit, Economic Development Queensland (EDQ), Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.

The prize

A $50,000.00 prize pool with up to ten winners was available.

The seven winners below will each receive $7,000 each with the student winner receiving $1,000.

Jury chair statement: Malcolm Middleton OAM, Queensland Government Architect

This competition was designed to encourage people to rediscover and reimagine Queensland neighbourhoods. As our population grows, it is important to allow our cities, centres and suburbs to be the best they can be. We owe this to current and future Queenslanders.

I am delighted that designers from across Australia have embraced the Density and Diversity Done Well challenge to offer ideas for well-designed medium-density housing and mixed-use development across the state that respond to our unique climate and lifestyle offer.

The outcomes of the competition demonstrate that a diverse range of secondary and primary housing forms are possible. The jury noted that it seemed far easier to retain the inherent qualities of an established neighbourhood block, whilst providing new opportunities for housing diversity, with smaller more compact building footprints. The jury also noted that many of the schemes which chose significantly to alter the overall bulk, form or scale of the neighbourhood block, tended to work at a whole of block level rather than on a lot by lot basis and were best suited to high amenity areas undergoing rapid transformation.

The best designs tackled multiple issues such as how to deliver density and diversity incrementally in the immediate and long terms without relying on wholesale lot amalgamation. Many of these designs showed how to create flexible and accessible live-work and intergenerational spaces that will enable people both to work from home and age in place. The best designs also highlighted issues that we, as a community, need to rethink. These included, the need to re-examine our relationship with the car and with the street, if we wish to retain both large trees and an acceptable level of open space. Many of the solutions also point to the need for innovative titling configurations and creative financing solutions to making housing more affordable.

There was also an emerging desire to embrace modular and advanced manufacturing techniques to ensure new infill housing can be delivered efficiently and with minimal disruption in established communities.

The willingness to embrace new housing types varies greatly across the State, both with the development industry and local government and is understandably influenced by regulatory frameworks and consumer preferences. A logical next step is to work out how these good ideas could be codified and whether current housing and development codes need to change for some of these designs to be realised.

Ideally some demonstration projects will result from this work and will be delivered by both the public and private sector.

Some developers may consider the ‘missing middle‘ to be unviable because of economy of scale issues, yet there is, and always has been an appetite for land owners to explore creative ways to develop their own land holdings. Many smaller scale development approaches with sound design aspirations can create significant impacts across a city. Similarly, banks’ and valuers’ risk-averse approval processes can restrict housing choice and diversity, because of a reluctance to embrace innovative and smaller mixed-use forms, a reluctance to do things not done before.

Nevertheless new housing approaches in established communities are needed. ‘Missing middle’ models such as many of the propositions offered through this competition, are strong candidates for advancing housing choice and affordability while preserving the core elements of Queensland’s enviable lifestyle.

The winners – built environment professionals

 
REBECCA CHAMPNEY
NETTLETON TRIBE (QLD)
Linear Landscape House
My ‘thin’ idea creates meaningful front and back yard spaces, a shared street room and a space for social outdoor activities.
  • Increases the number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 40.

Jury comments:

Sensitive, side boundary infill

This proposes a well-crafted, low-scale intervention into an existing neighbourhood. The idea centres on the creation of a narrow house that re-purposes an often unloved, underutilised and contested ‘leftover’ space between the side boundary and an existing house.

It creates a series of small building footprints within this side boundary space that could also accommodate a flexible studio space, granny flat and home offices as a separate freestanding extension to the existing house.

Critically, this new two-storey dwelling preserves and connects front and rear garden spaces. This nuanced side boundary response avoids a ‘build to boundary’ blank wall while maximising light, ventilation and privacy.

TRIAS (NSW)
Dappled Dwellings
This approach encourages neighbourly interaction. It allows work to proceed affordably and organically, without excessive capital cost and unnecessary demolition.
  • Increases the number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 52.

Jury comments:

Building under and behind

This is a deceptively simple, compact and affordable idea that retains and builds under the existing house while placing two micro-dwellings out the back. It demonstrates what is possible when people, not cars are invited into backyards.

The grouping of micro homes clustered around a central courtyard space lends itself to co-housing or intergenerational family situations, particularly where facilities such as laundries, sheds, and spaces for cars and vegetable gardens are shared and valued over privacy between dwellings.

This low-key approach also allows for incremental change and a simple financing model, particularly for owner-occupiers.

ARCOLOGIC DESIGN (WA)
Eco-nesting
My idea is about small footprint, carbon neutral and energy efficient living, which unlocks the value in our own backyards.
  • Increases the number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 70.

Jury comments:

Laneway eco pavilions

This idea creates a series of contemporary and compact laneway pavilions that utilise lightweight modular construction. The jury was impressed with the attention to detail and incorporation of a range of energy and water efficient ideas, as well as flexible floor plan arrangements providing a choice in intergenerational and live-work opportunities.

The self-contained nature of each pavilion, including the retention of off-street carparking, makes this an attractive model for ‘downsizers’ who want freehold, villa-style living.

The freestanding nature of each pavilion allows each building to capture light and breezes on all four sides – important in our subtropical and tropical environments.

This approach also provides the possibility for sub-staging and incremental take up that is not often an option with other higher density housing types.

KALI MARNANE AND TESS MARTIN (QLD)
Paired Twin House
The typical Queensland Street is oversized and car dominated. I want to create a place to pause, chat to a neighbour or have a cup of tea while observing new life on the street.
  • Increases number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 80.

Jury comments:

Rethinking the shop-house

This idea accommodates up to four dwellings on a typical block by building within the area traditionally used as the front boundary setback and in areas free of mature trees.

In this scheme, the front gardens are replaced by buildings that offer a street presence to studios, workshops or home offices.

Taking a cue from the traditional shop-house this scheme includes studio apartments above these work-spaces.

BLIGH GRAHAM ARCHITECTS (QLD)
Woven Places
Our idea fulfils the requirement for achievable and affordable solutions, with minor disruption, great variety and flexibility all on a 600sqm block.
  • Increases the number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 80.

Jury comments:

Tropical Courtyard Housing

The demolition of a post-war house and the subsequent subdivision into two smaller lots is a common sight in many suburbs. Seemingly overnight large project homes soon consume these sites, offering little in the way of amenity and open space.

By carefully arranging two asymmetrical duplexes on the site, this highly resolved proposal achieves a scheme of equal density but in a far more design and climatic responsive way.

The jury considered this a flexible and deceptively high increase in density. The concept does require some repositioning of the traditional access patterns. Choosing to accommodate cars on the periphery of the site has allowed the design to focus on fine grain pedestrian circulation from the street to the front door.

GRESLEY ABAS ARCHITECTS (WA)
Inter-Urban Diver-City
With a range of shared amenities, this large house retains the ‘luxuries’ of traditional suburbia: the backyard, the shed and a generous covered outdoor BBQ area.
  • Increases the number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 100.

Jury comments:

The new six pack

This idea reimagines the suburban McMansion as a private community of 4-6 dwellings of differing size and type, including a communally owned bedsit for visiting family and friends and car-sharing arrangements. The concept also challenges the traditional scale and function of the street by proposing car and community spaces through the reduction of traffic lanes and asphalt.

The concept merges three sometimes-maligned housing forms – the six pack, the McMansion and the share-house – into a new flexible built form that offers a place to live for singles, couples, small young families, established families and empty-nesters.

The jury saw great potential for this model to house the young and the young at heart, particularly elderly people or people with a disability who wish to live in a contemporary, non-institutional community-style setting.

COX ARCHITECTURE (QLD)
Laneway Tower-housing
Our design looks to the under-utilised backyard and the creation of a new subtropical laneway.
  • Increases the number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 100.

Jury comments:

New subtropical laneway

An urbane and compact apartment that builds on the traditions of the ‘six pack’. This is a higher density solution that proposes an integrated access space and allows for the build-up of density over time.

This scheme cleverly deals with carparking and the building form in a narrow space. The building height increases towards the centre of the block and to the laneway thereby reducing overshadowing and overlooking often associated with these types of incremental infill.

Innovative carparking utilising half basements concealed in the overall building form delivers the potential for higher density without full basement construction.

The winner – built environment student (student or graduate architect)

 
MANI SAHAM
University of Art, Tehran (now residing in the NT)
  • Increases the number of dwellings on the neighbourhood block from 20 to 40.

Jury comments:

An energetic and enthusiastic collection of ideas that creates a strong urban pattern radically at odds with the traditional high density offering. This scheme builds on the idea of the gable and skilfully integrates this with contemporary green roof terraces and new forms of living.

A strong connection to the streetscape is promoted through the design with areas for social interaction located on the traditional front setback and footpath areas.

Commendations

Built environment student commendation

(student or graduate architect)

Mention

All entries

You can view all the competition entries.