2019 Sydney Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

The Bowery WIlloughby

Image Credit : AJH+


Project Overview

In the late 1800’s Willoughby was a brick manufacturing hub with a variety of manufacturers located in the area.
The existing rich tapestry of crafted brick buildings, many of them now heritage listed, also pay homage to this era.

The Bowery continues the rich history of considered and well crafted brick buildings in Willoughby.
In doing so the Bowery addresses a gateway urban corner announcing the commencement of the retail & commercial precinct along Willoughby road and establishes the next evolution of considered mixed use buildings in the precinct

Project Commissioner

MLM pty ltd

Project Creator



AJH+ - Urban Design, Architecture and Interiors

Project Brief

The site is a genuine corner gateway site to a retail/ commercial strip that is struggling, like many other similar locations in Sydney, to adapt to contemporary retail / commercial demands with poor quality living opportunities and a very busy road to contend with.
The project addresses how to potentially address these issues and create a desirable place to live (17 apartments) over 4 storeys with great commercial spaces located along one of Sydney’s busiest streets thus providing a vision for future projects to follow in the precinct.
The apartments are built to rent and have been planned with rigor, longevity, sustainability and adaptability at the core of the project
A project vision relying on a deep understanding of context, history and stitching together rather than scale and “bling” to create the next evolution for Willoughby road was pursued.

Project Innovation/Need

Commercial and residential spaces have vastly different requirements which often seem conflicting when combined
The Willoughby road context is one of poor performing commercial and residential building stock. Ground floor commercial spaces are small, dark and unwelcoming. The residential spaces above typically locate living spaces towards the noisy street providing no buffer or environmental benefits. The combination of these factors makes both unsuccessful.
The Bowery strives to provide a better outcome for both uses addressing their supposed conflicting requirements into a benefit and then “wrapping” them in a simple Loggia
The commercial spaces are brought forward to the street line and turn the corner. This provides prominence, the opportunity for “filtration” through many street entries, access to daylight, engagement with the street, addressing the human scale and provides a balcony. An offering unique to the area for this use.
The apartments over are setback as far as possible from the street using distance as the buffer. The apartments are planned with main spaces (living/ bedrooms) facing this buffer gaining a protected external outlook.
The Bowery is then “wrapped” in a loggia which adapts to the varying requirements for each use. This provides for framing the commercial façade and balcony whilst creating an “outdoor room” for apartments with its subtle enclosure.
The Loggias vary responding to the context. The lower levels are wider, more solid providing a buffer for privacy, acoustics and contextualising the project to the surrounding area. As the loggia extends to the upper levels its proportions are thinner and is angled guiding the outlook to available views and addressing the corner

Design Challenge

Willoughby road is a precinct undergoing a slow significant change as existing retail/ commercial stores adjust to a new retail/ commercial landscape whilst the residential stock in the precinct is of poor quality making it difficult to attract residents. Both uses in the precinct are struggling
The Bowery proposes a realignment of the requirements of each to create synergies where both may benefit and appeal to the immediate market. These synergies are proposed in a manner that responds to its context, history and future potential thus celebrating the area, its identity and the human condition.
The Bowery proposes a very simple gesture in brick, a material synonymous with the area, to engage a new building with the existing context. The gesture is simple and unpretentious devoid of any “bling” or whimsical aesthetic drivers
The simplicity of the gesture relies on its proportions based on uses and is invigorated by the subtle changes that respond to the context creating a variety of very useful layers for tenants and residents. Balconies, outdoor rooms, commercial facades, lobbies, communal open spaces, steepness of the site, project entrance to the street and varying neighbouring uses (commercial, residential , car park) all vary and adapt the simple gesture.

The Bowery then proposes to create highly liveable, functional and flexible apartments. These planned around access to their own “outdoor room” with all living and bedroom spaces located to benefit from the outdoor room and providing flexibility in its uses for residents needs as time passes. This provides a new offering to the market
The commercial spaces are larger than the offering in the precinct, provide much greater glazing, are readily accessed from several entrances and are environmentally more sensitive.


At the core of the Bowery is providing sustainable outcomes (social, economical, environmental) against a contextual backdrop which is indicative of non sustainable approaches struggling to adapt to change
The project maximises the potential use of the site by instilling the flexibility of “outdoor rooms” for apartments. This flexibility provides opportunities for future adaptation as residents needs change over time providing long term viability for residents and building a like. The outdoor rooms also provides controlled opportunities for engagement with the street/ community thus addressing social/ well being aspects.

The apartments maximise passive environmental performance with all the elements key to a healthy enjoyable life including light, ventilation, solar access and a sense of space.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project can be a concept, tender or personal project, i.e. proposed space.
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