In conversation with MAArchitects

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“By keeping the homes simple and elegant we have been able to design dwellings that will adapt to the owner. Homes where walking in feels like a holiday from the day to day of the real world.”

What was your initial inspiration for the project?

From the start we wanted to capture Balaclava’s sense of community and reflect the industrial nature of the existing site. When we first visited it was covered with lots of small buildings and large steel fencing frames. It was like entering a different world – we really liked the sense of discovery and the strong graphic nature of the fencing, as well as the access to the site from the western lane and the little warehouses, which use it as a street frontage. We immediately saw an opportunity to interpret these elements in the design.


Can you speak to the different types of homes within the project and any distinct differences/features within them?

Generally, Inkerman & Nelson is comprised of three storey, three-bedroom townhomes with ground level living and a second flexible space on the second floor. Designed to adapt to a variety of family types, the top-level flexible space can be easily customised to become a young child’s bedroom, a TV room or a parent’s retreat. We have also designed in an upper level deck to most of the homes – located immediately off the flexible space – which is a lovely spot for a summer spritz. There are three main groups of houses – the Inkerman Street townhomes with a north facing deck over the rooftops to the city; the Nelson Street townhomes, which have a wider plan and a first-floor powder room; and the Laneway dwellings, inspired by the warehouses on the adjacent laneway.

MAArchitects has a well-deserved reputation for truly placing homeowners at the centre of design decisions. Can you talk to the ways these homes consider occupants routines?

The design of homes needs to go beyond the inclusion of premium finishes and pretty bathrooms. We design spaces that have joy, light and opportunity, that are not prescriptive and can adapt to the occupant’s personality. This is really important when you design family homes which will change dramatically as families grow and the requirements of parents and children change.

Texture and materiality informs a lot of your work. Can you tell us a little about the types of materials you have used throughout these homes, and why?

We design homes to be experienced, with an emphasis on the things you touch, like the entry screen and door handles. These small gestures are designed to make you pause and appreciate the craft of the project. For example, the townhomes will have our signature timber screen entry doors and are predominantly brick with expressed upper levels. All of the townhomes have a shared form, which has been adapted to respond to the different characters of the various street frontages. We wanted to use brick as it feels soft and residential but provides opportunities to create texture and shadow.


How has landscaping and nature been incorporated within the homes and greater precinct of the project?

Collaborating closely with Eckersley Garden Architecture, we picked up on the steel frames of the original site to create a series of simple pergolas, defining the public and private realms and creating frameworks for planting. The journey begins at the main entry and opens out at the centre of the site to frame a public square with a large in-ground tree; we are hoping this might become an informal meeting place for the community. We believe the success to planting in projects like this is to keep it simple and use a low-maintenance palette of plants. Planting areas have been constrained to the edges of internal laneways to maximise the usable area and create green fencing to the perimeter.

What do you think makes these homes stand out from other of a similar ilk?

Less is more. These townhomes have been designed to encourage individuality. By keeping the homes simple and elegant we have been able to design dwellings that will adapt to the owner. Homes where walking in feels like a holiday from the day to day of the real world.


Do you have a favourite feature?

I love the site planning, central square, feature pergola and landscaping concept. Housing is experienced at eye level, so we have put a real emphasis on this. I’m excited that within 12 months, the central square and landscaping will be a real oasis, with its own village feel within Balaclava.


For more information, please contact Nat Eisen on 0403 472 204 or Jake Eisen on 0408 051 785

Visit the Inkerman & Nelson website