Lessons Learned from Across the Ditch: Medium Density Done Well

June 5, 2015

Housing for Life

Auckland is now on the path toward becoming a more compact city and what we build today will shape the neighbourhoods of tomorrow.

Density done well can foster thriving neighbourhoods and help to sustain public amenities such as public transport and great local parks. However, density done badly can isolate people, and even contribute towards wider social issues within a neighbourhood.

Getting it right

Here are some key lessons the Auckland Design Manual team have learned from two great projects from across the ditch.

Introducing…Chapel Street Apartments in Melbourne and the Redfern Social Housing Development in Sydney.

The Chapel Street Apartments comprise of two four storey apartment buildings, with 81 units and 70 basement parks. The two Chapel Street buildings have been skilfully designed to work with a rather awkward long skinny ‘L’ shaped site.

Chapel street plan

Chapel Street Apartments site map


The Redfern site fills an entire street block, with 106 dwellings made up of three to four storey apartment buildings and low rise terraces.  The apartments form the cornerstones of the development and the low rise terraces align the four surrounding streets.

redfern site map

Redfern development site map


Integrated housing

New housing developments ideally create new communities, with a diverse range of people at all stages of life. Each of these developments has a mix of public and private housing and provides a mix of integrated housing for young families and the elderly.

Designing for both the residents and the neighbourhood

Both these developments are great examples of how to do density, while still giving considerable weight to residents’ wellbeing and lifestyles and, at the same time, respecting the neighbours and the character of neighbourhood.

Chapel Street Neighbourhood Context

Chapel Street Apartments in context of the street and surrounding buildings.


Design for trees

Each of these developments has designed for successful outdoor spaces that incorporate new planting and protect mature trees already on site.  Planting is a key feature of Redfern with continuous band of trees at the rear of the sections. This creates a pleasant outlook and is a clever way to ‘softly’ create privacy for residents.

Avoid monotony

Both these exemplar developments avoid monotony by varying individual building forms, but they share a sense of cohesiveness through the use of a similar palette of materials.

Redfern terraces

Some examples of Redfern’s terraced housing

chapel street apartment

Chapel Street Apartment Building A

chapel street 2

Chapel Street Apartment Building B


Go sustainable

The Redfern development was also designed to meet Green Star specifications, and has a 5 Star rating.  The design maximizes solar exposure and natural ventilation to each of the apartment units. The units also feature solar hot water heating, grey water irrigation, rainwater and photovoltaic cells for common lighting.

redfern apartment

An example of the Redfern apartment buildings


Find out more about these two great case studies on the Auckland Design Manual Case Study Hub


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