In Architecture, Building

What Makes an Apartment Building Iconic?


Meet the architects of big results in Little Bay. Award-winning Sydney-based firm of Fox Johnston have a portfolio that goes beyond the expected. Here, directors Conrad Johnston and Emili Fox share their thoughts on why considered, robust design matters more than ever. 


In your experience, how has the top end of the apartment market changed in recent years? Do you expect those trends to continue? 

Conrad Johnston: We are now dealing with a far, far more discerning buyer than we were 10 years ago. Today’s apartment buyers are well travelled, design-literate, discerning and demanding. They know good architecture when they see it; they know what they want and they will hold off until they find it. They are buying for the long term. They think about the investment potential, and they know markets change. So aiming “low and safe” – producing a building without a definitive point of difference, cutting corners then spending a bit on fancy fixtures, appliances and surface treatments at the end – is no longer enough. It is better to build smaller and more beautifully, and achieve a premium return.

Emili Fox: We believe good architecture has integrity; that is what makes a building unique and sought-after. With each project, we strive for a distinctive and totally resolved site-specific design, where the building concept is rigorously tested then that is carried through into the design of each individual apartment. So the design concept underpins and drives all stages of the project.



Why do you think that has changed, and what are today’s residents looking for?


Conrad Johnston: A decade ago, apartments were seen as a stepping-stone to a “real” house. They were something you lived in for a while then moved on – or, perhaps, an investment property that you would never live in. That has now changed. Many apartment buyers are either downsizing from substantial family homes or simply like the convenience and amenities offered by apartment living. Either way, this is a permanent home.

Emili Fox:  We totally get that; its integral to the way we work. In addition to designing apartment buildings, we have designed and built many single family homes. With both, our aim is to make enduring, discrete, functional buildings that are as wonderful to inhabit as they are inspiring to look at.


What does that mean for your clients, and you as their architects?


Emili Fox: Today’s up-market apartment buyers are looking for a home that is unique and distinctive, with all the considered functionality of a large well-designed family home, coupled with the convenience, closeness to the city, energy efficiencies and shared amenities of apartment living. As our recently completed projects at Little Bay and Erskineville show, projects that provide all those things, together with that defining and intangible factor that makes an apartment a home, now command a significant premium.



How has your background led you here? 


Conrad Johnston: Fox Johnston has a 12-year track record of designing homes and apartment buildings with a refined, elegant, contemporary aesthetic. We work across diverse projects, from large private houses to adaptive re-use of heritage buildings to major multi-residential projects. Our work is driven by a passion for light, space, natural materials and finely crafted living spaces, coupled with an acute awareness of the sustainability challenges facing the built environment.

 “Within the busy category of apartments, Fox Johnston’s Solis [at Little Bay] was the standout winner. Fox Johnston has shown why good design in multi-residential projects is so important to our city, as higher density development continues to become the norm. They make it look simple, yet careful attention to the fundamentals of aspect, cross-ventilation, views, privacy and efficient layouts sets this development ahead of so many others.”
– Jury comment, Randwick City Architecture and
Urban Design Awards 2017


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