McIntyre Drive Social Housing, Altona


  • MGS Architects
  • Dyskors
  • JBA Consulting
  • Robert Bird Group
  • GHD Australia


This project for 69 apartments in Altona explores a nexus between the surrounding suburban neighbourhood and denser urban housing development models. It reinterprets the suburban vernacular over multiple levels for the inner courtyard façade and combines it with a pared down expression on the outward façades facing the adjacent Reserve and Council Depot site.

The design focuses the resident and visitor experience around a generously landscaped courtyard, offering retreat, recreation and opportunities for social interaction, consciously respecting the amenity of the suburb by maintaining generous setbacks and landscaped frontage to McIntyre Drive.

Key Features


Social Housing Design Excellence:

Managed by Yarra Community Housing, this residential building provides safe, affordable homes to people over 55 experiencing housing insecurity.

The design agenda was one where identity and a sense of home are inscribed to produce value for the residents and a communal sense of place. A “U” shaped footprint was created to form a connection from the street to the main entrance. The centre of the “U” also suggesting a focus and gathering space, somewhere to look into or be watched from, to be dropped off or wait for a friend or relative.


Creating a sense of permanence for housing-insecure residents:

In accordance with DHS objectives the building was to provide independent living accommodation for residents with disabilities and incorporates best practice design guidelines in regards to social housing and overall accessibility and safety.

The project includes communal spaces, community gardens, private open space and disability access provisions throughout. The project required a sympathetic perspective, not only to the future resident, but to the surrounding low density residences.


Responding to what is already there:

The building is on a site formerly occupied by a disused nursing home. To maintain a sense of established order we retained the alignment of the previous building footprint to the south. Parking, driveways and streetscape planting as well as a number of existing mature trees were kept to preserve the established character of the site which borders a council reserve.

The project is respectful of the amenity of the suburb and mediates streetscape concerns of scale and height with a mindful variation in building mass and experimentation in colour, tone and material texture.


Energy efficient design and materials:

The project incorporates a number of environmentally sustainable design principles, both passive and direct. These include: reverse pre-cast concrete construction providing greater thermal mass to the interior of the dwellings, hydronic heating throughout, solar hot water systems, on site retention of stormwater through storm gardens and water tanks for irrigation.

The configuration of the building is fundamentally in response to the provision for community gardens that allow for the planting and growing of flowers and food whilst at the same time minimising stormwater wastage.


Designing in collaboration with others:

MGS’s collaboration with Dyskors was to configure the internal courtyard façade of the building. By using the surrounding housing typologies, we derived the formal characteristics, which we inserted into a parametric design. A secondary design process used abstraction to de-figure ornament and vernacular detail while blending shapes and sizes to suit.

The design departs from the local vernacular – symmetrical gables as described by the timber framing manual are off-kilter and awry. The material treatment is subversive – grey and purple tones with brightly-coloured pink and green voids between.

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