Austin Maynard Grows Up With New Sustainable Multifamily Apartment Project

The Australian firm designs and builds a multifamily project with sustainability, style, and humor.

Terrace House Exterior

Austin Maynard

We have been following the work of Andrew Maynard since 2005 and years ago we declared him to be our "Best of Green Young Architect." He has grown up a bit since then, finding a partner, and now his firm is Austin Maynard. His buildings have grown up too: Terrace House is his first completed multifamily apartment project.

Except: "These homes are different to apartments that have come before. These homes are not apartments. They’re Terrace Houses, stacked six storeys high." Terrace houses are an Australian version of the English townhouse, built with party walls to pack them more tightly together.

In her history of Australian terrace houses, Melissa Howard writes:

"Terrace housing was the 19th and 20th century version of the high-rise apartment block. “Joint terraced housing maximised the return for investors,” says Gareth Wilson, researcher with the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage at the Melbourne School of Design. “Hence the tendency to stack individual terrace houses next to each other to form large rows in suburbs close to the city centre.”
drone shot from above

Finn Robertson

Many of them were long and thin, with services added to the rear, and then had decorative balconies added to the front. And that is what Austin Maynard has done with the Terrace House in his 21st-century version. I thought the long and skinny plans were strange, but the more I read about terrace houses, the more sense they made.

Terrace house Plan

Austin Maynard Architects

Here you can see how unusual they are. You enter from the middle of the building as if you were entering the rear of the terrace house that used to have the outhouse in the backyard, you go past the bedrooms which open up into a light well. I wonder what the acoustics are like with 10 bedrooms on each and then get to the kitchen and living area. It also helps that single stairs are legal here. No usual developer would risk such an unusual plan.

talking across the courtyard

Austin Maynard

But apparently, there was no usual developer—it appears to have been Austin Maynard.

"In June 2016 we made available a survey to potential purchasers, the results of which strongly informed the design of Terrace House. 194 respondents expressed a willingness to purchase homes designed by Austin Maynard Architects at 209 Sydney Road... The vast majority of respondents wanted a shared laundry, rooftop clothesline to ensure that they had larger living spaces. A rooftop garden was very important to most respondents. Everyone was concerned about climate change and the majority wanted a highly sustainable development. Almost no-one requested air-conditioning, with the knowledge that Austin Maynard would be designing a highly thermal efficient building."
Party on Terrace

Austin Maynard

It was designed to be simple and affordable, without any car parking.

"The majority of purchasers of Terrace House are locals of Brunswick and many are renters in the area who have been unable to find affordable and liveable options to purchase locally. They already have an established social network and make use of the public and commercial transport options in the area. "
Interior of unit

Austin Maynard

According to Shrink that Footprint, Australian homes average out as the world's largest, and are described by Austin Maynard as "typically inefficient in its use of space and energy, poorly designed and unsustainable." Terrace house apartments are large at up to 1,400 square feet, and "fill a much-needed gap in the housing market. Large enough for families, but still with the shared resourcing and community that apartment living brings." Combine that with a car-free urban lifestyle and you have a very low carbon footprint.

Arches on building

Austin Maynard

As is usual with Austin Maynard, if everyone else goes one way, they go the other, even with the architectural styles. I wondered about the big arches:

"We aim for Terrace House to be a type of love letter to Brunswick’s eclectic heritage and specifically to its often undervalued Mediterranean-Australian built history. Sadly arches and brown brick are not in fashion at the moment and as such we are seeing the erasure of a very important part of post war Australia. Terrace House borrows not only from the plethora of unique arches along Sydney Road, but also from the often undervalued Mediterranean history of the area."

child at railing

Austin Maynard

I have adored almost everything that Andrew Maynard has done because he understands sustainability, he knows how to bend the rules and he just doesn't care about convention. Even in the astroturf-covered house, which I like the least, he is hilariously subversive. He does it his own way, writing in Parlour and Archdaily about his approach to the work/life balance:

"To generate this work/life balance I have opted out of the overly competitive and patriarchal environment that contemporary architectural working culture demands. My practice fills a tiny niche and I recognize that it is not financially viable for the profession as a whole to do as I do."

Watching the video, one gets the sense that the buyers here are not your usual crowd of anonymous apartment dwellers. There are lots of kids, lots of smiles. There are always smiles in Austin Maynard projects, There is always something twisted and different, and there is always something to learn.

Another thing I love about Austin Maynard is they make it so easy for people to write about them. There are always dozens of photos, plans, and drawings explaining everything. See them all here at Austin Maynard.