Affordable housing in Fremantle

A project in collaboration with Aung Kyaw Thein, Kavi Lasrado, Melissa Soh and Tuan Ngo

Winners of the [design]ability competition run by The Department of Housing




Genius Loci - Spirit of the Place

Being a previous site for medium density social housing notorious of crime and drug, the site undoubtedly carried a bad vibe. In our efforts to re-invent our site’s image, it was important to highlight its significance in its surrounding context. Located eight km’s from Fremantle’s centre, it quickly became clear to us that it was removed from the typical charm of Fremantle; instead, the site was stuck in a limbo between low density suburban housing, high traffic and soon to be (maybe) truck freight link, almost sealing its fate into being an undesirable place to be, let alone live.

Despite the competing surrounding location factors, the site itself undulates down to the North/Western corner with a spine of of mature Eucalyptus trees leading down to Holland Street. The project is grounded by these natural site characteristics and aims to make them a part of the every day life of the residents. 


We chose to use the North/South line of Eucalypts as a defining moment in our scheme and introduced a swale on the Northwest corner. This swale will create an ecologically productive water retention basin that will recharge the ground water for existing and new plants. In addition to this, a big ecologically aware move was through the use of drivable grass blocks as the predominant ground treatment as a way to ease run-off into stormwater drains. The surrounding ground level will be landscaped into a playful integration of native plants with play-scapes (playground landscapes) as well as community gardens.


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Spine of Eucalyptus trees

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Rotating the apartment levels other than ground floor to respond to site conditions


Town Houses on Holland street 


View of apartment building on the way to Fremantle's centre - West bound on High Street

Working with the nature of the ground and its position as a threshold between suburbia and truck highway, we settled towards a form that will be true to this origin. An eight storey mass (Billboard and landmark) on the face of High street and a block of humble two storey townhouses which settles in nicely with the building grammar of Holland St. It is at top priority that our proposal was inoffensive and respectful to the surrounding community as a way to make amends from past wrongs and opportunity to also give back. With this thought in mind we were inspired to activate the ground level and work with the existing ecology of the site.


Double storey North facing apartments. The orientation as well as the loft design creates comfortable living conditions through cross ventillation and natural light.  

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Realistically, younger people are the strong demographic of Fremantle, and many of these couples and singles are well travelled, coming back to Perth for family or to settle down. These people often look to live in Fremantle, as it is a place with a rich culture and history. It is also a place viewed to be more urban than much of Perth, which is part of the appeal. The most important step in executing an affordable housing scheme was to recognise the need for diversity. To use diversity in our favour as a democratic leveller, an opportunity to learn from people around you in different walks of life; a lesson in respect, a provider of equal opportunity for those who risked being the victim of gentrification, a step towards more responsive useful spaces.


serena pangestu