In December 2017, the residents of Nightingale 1.0 moved into their new homes after years fighting to get planning approval for the building, the first to be built using the groundbreaking Nightingale Housing Model.
The ups and downs of getting this revolutionary new housing model off the ground undoubtedly brought the residents closer as they worked together to rally support for the cause, and then collaborated on design discussions and met for site visits during construction. It has been the six months since they moved in, but in that time the design of the building itself and the people who live there have continued to foster and grow the thriving Nightingale community.
Interviewing four of the Nightingale 1.0 residents, it is clear that while they each live very different individual lives, they share a love for their community and for the goals and ideals behind the Nightingale Model. Sam Balaton-Chrimes, lecturer at Deakin University, had lived in other apartments where there was ‘zero sense of community’. Now, she reflects that ‘I feel like I have neighbours who look out for each other’. Dan McKenna, Senior Project Lead at Nightingale Housing and Nightingale 1.0 resident, agrees, noting that ‘it’s not a forced thing. Pretty quickly we have all been able to rely on each other for those mundane day-to-day things that pop up – help hanging some artwork, feeding the dog, or eating some Tim-Tams when someone bought about 60 packets just to try to win a competition.’ Whether it is lighthearted moments like helping to eat an absurd amount of sweet biscuits, or the more subtle but meaningful things like dropping in a meal to a neighbour, what comes across is that the residents genuinely care about each other.
A communal rooftop garden is a space that naturally brings them together, whether they are gardeners or not. Resident Sophie Lucas, founder of design studio Chalk Lane Interiors, is the building’s designated beekeeper, caring for the beehives who moved in last month and have ‘the best view in Brunswick’. Keen gardeners have formed the gardening group, while other residents like Sam who may not be active gardeners (‘I kill everything’) enjoy the garden as a social and communal space. Bonnie Herring, resident and Director of Breathe Architecture, comments ‘It is rare that such consideration and generosity is given toward public and shared interfaces, yet venturing to the roof garden or leaving and returning home is an active and social event.’
Of course, the individual apartments are critical to the inhabitants’ quality of life. While typical apartments are often cramped and dark, the Nightingale interiors’ carefully considered design makes an enormous difference to the experience of apartment living. Dan says ‘Our Nightingale home is much larger than all of our previous places, has so much more natural light, and more storage than we know what to do with.’ The interior aesthetic is deliberately, effortlessly simple. Bonnie explains that ‘there is a generosity to the scale of the spaces and clear thought about what is and isn’t important, what is visible and what isn’t. The very tactile and raw material palette gives a sense of longevity and warmth and encourages a home that will grow and patina over time.’
While the apartments share the same base layout and interior aesthetic, every resident has naturally personalised their space through furnishings. Sophie was pleasantly surprised by how well their favourite blue velvet couch works in the space, while Sam has softened the industrial palette with linen curtains, a thick pile wool rug, and a timber and hemp sofa, and ‘tonnes of cushions and plants’.
The kitchen is often the heart of the home and the Nightingale kitchens are surprisingly spacious, designed with plenty of storage and sleek space-saving appliances by Fisher & Paykel. As Bonnie puts it, referencing Le Corbusier, ‘If our homes are machines for living in, our appliances are tools that live in our homes with us – so they had better perform efficiently, keep tidy and look good in the process!’. This may be a tall order, but everyone expresses how much the kitchens and appliances support their own individual lives and ways of using the kitchen and preparing food.
Dan, Sophie and Bonnie all love to cook, and each express how much they enjoy the kitchen as a place to entertain friends or cook a nourishing midweek meal. ‘We will often have people over to our place, and the kitchen becomes a really comfortable place for people to congregate whilst food is being prepped and cooked.’ says Dan. ‘Our dining table alongside the long kitchen benchtop allows people to feel engaged and involved in the food prep, even if they are just sitting down having a drink.’ Bonnie similarly comments that the kitchen facilitates social interaction as well as efficient task-based use, with the position of the kitchen hugging the edge of the open-plan dining, lounge and external courtyard areas, ‘so either small or larger gatherings stretch between without losing eye contact. Guests congregate at the dining table, an arm’s reach from the record player and wine rack’.
Sophie is impressed with the fact she can brine jars of olives from her in-laws’ farm in her apartment kitchen and was pleasantly surprised by how much she likes cooking on induction, as she had never used it previously. For Sam, who ‘hates cooking’, the induction is also a bonus as ‘I love that cooking is so easy and fast on the induction cooktop’. She also expresses of the Fisher & Paykel integrated Dishdrawer that ‘living on my own I love being able to put the dishwasher on every day – one draw takes breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes almost perfectly, so I don’t feel guilty about wasting water.’
Whether sharing a meal, working in the garden or simply going about their daily lives, it is clear that the residents of Nightingale 1.0 are supported and sustained by the community that has made a home in the building. It is a true example of architecture created for the purpose of tending to its inhabitants – in the common spaces encouraging yet not forcing social interaction, and in the apartments creating beautiful, comfortable and functional spaces that respond to the residents’ individual needs and lives.