A White Apartment Amongst Red-brick Warehouses

Words by Anthony Richardson

How do you design and build a modern apartment building in a rather industrial suburb like Collingwood? Do you try to blend in, or stand out? 107 Cambridge by Elenberg Fraser looked to do the latter, but still wanted to respect and honour the history.


© Tom Blachford

© Tom Blachford

Collingwood has a rich industrious history, which can still be seen today. Take a walk around the suburb and you can still see streets filled with red-brick warehouses and workers cottages. In fact, Collingwood is home to Melbourne's first department store, Foy & Gibson, which opened as a drapery back in 1883 on Smith Street and then spread around Australia. Over several decades, a complex of factories and warehouses was constructed from 1887 in the area which provided goods for the department stores. Renowned architect William Pitt designed the complex, with most buildings on the Heritage Victoria Registers of significance for their architectural uniformity. When it came for Elenberg Fraser to convert the Cambridge Street warehouses into an apartment building for Gurner TM, they wanted to honour the past while saluting the future.

Elenberg Fraser looked overseas for inspiration, with New York City's meatpacking district providing them with a model for loft-living. Not wanting their design to blend in, or look like it was built 135 years ago, they wanted to provide contrast through a simple modern white addition. Wanting to nod their head to the neighbourhood, the exterior does have some intricate details such as the folded screens. This is their way of speaking to the intricate details of the surrounding brickwork, but in a more modern way. The screens not only help provide shading, but also breaks up the ground floor and the upper-levels.

Internally each apartment has high-ceilings, large windows and a flexible spatial configuration, set on a monochrome palette. These elements speak to the typical warehouse apartments of New York City, including small details such as the industrial black metalwork and aged brass. There are also touches of 'Elenberg Fraser' throughout  such as the floating circles found in the kitchen handles and bathroom mirrors. Wanting to be 'objects in space', the joinery is built around frames and permeable as oppose to something that is quite monolithic.

As a result of all of this, Cambridge Street blends industrial heritage with contemporary design. It really helps to tell the narrative of the site, including the rich history associated with it. 

Rather than compete with the ornate heritage shell, we wanted to create a modern architectural counterpart, that would at once harmonise with the level of detail while offering contrast with the historic built form.
— Elenberg Fraser


Project Name _ 107 Cambridge
Architects _
Elenberg Fraserwww.elenbergfraser.com
Location _
Area _ 5,886m²
Project Completed _ 2016
Photographer _
Tom Blachford | www.tomblachford.com
Builder _
Construction Engineering
Structural Engineer _
Webber Design
Services Engineer _
ADP Consulting Engineers
Building Surveyor _
Gardner Group
Town Planner _

Published with BowerBird

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