Australia’s Largest Recycled Brick Building – Arkadia by DKO Architecture and Breathe Architecture

Words by Thida Sachathep
Architecture by DKO Architecture
Photography by Tom Ross
Landscape Design Oculus

Designed by DKO Architecture and Breathe Architecture for Defence Housing Australia (DHA) to champion sustainability and celebrate community, Arkadia is exemplary in its use of recycled materials, which are both environmentally sustainable and tie the building to the history of its site.

Standing opposite Sydney Park in Alexandria, with over half a million recycled bricks Arkadia is decidedly monumental. Yet the emphasis is on community and sustainability. Beginning as an inquiry into Australia’s future multi-residential developments, Arkadia is now a result of reconsidered community engagement through a holistic, environmentally friendly and user-centred design approach. “We firmly believe that smaller communities are better communities, when you have more than 12 neighbours you start to lose that personal feel. It is exactly the same as getting to know your neighbours that live on the same street,” Koos de Keijzer, principal of DKO Architecture, explains.

Green communal areas are scattered throughout Arkadia, bringing people together and nurturing the inhabitants’ wellbeing.

With over 152 units spread over four buildings, each uniquely designed building is named after key brickmakers that once operated in the area. Each building is serviced by its own core lift shaft and houses eight apartments on every level. Additionally, communal vegetable gardens, recreational roof top areas with BBQ facilities and city-wide views encourage social interaction as spaces that nurture wellbeing and that will continue to thrive and nourish the community over time.

With sustainability at its core, the objective for Arkadia to minimise its environmental footprint was met by the inclusion of bike sheds, drought-tolerant planting, air reticulation, solar shading and the dominant use of recycled bricks. Brick was chosen not only for sustainability reasons but for their status as material that references the site’s history, which was once home to the NSW Bricks Company during the 1870s. This instantly creates a connection with adjacent buildings in the neighbourhood.

A distinctive design feature of Arkadia is the undulating two-storey brick arches that form “mouse holes” through the site, inviting people to traverse through it.

At the core of its design, Arkadia is both environmentally and socially sustainable. DKO Architecture in collaboration with Breathe Architecture and DHA, as well as Oculus, have paved the way for sustainable design that places importance on creating safe, nurturing community living.

Located at the forecourt of Arkadia, three corten cones designed by artist Jane Cavanough pays homage to the former industrial function of the site.