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Arkadia is a collaboration between Breathe Architecture, DKO Architecture, and Oculus.

At its heart, Arkadia is about ecological sustainability and social sustainability.

It’s about memory and place.

Arkadia is the first building in Australia to be built with nearly half a million recycled bricks, delivering an almost entirely carbon-neutral skin.

The project uses recycled materials and passive solar-design technologies to stand as a beacon to a low carbon future.

To strengthen the project community, Arkadia is broken into four buildings, four cores, and four right-sized, connected communities.

The four communities are woven together by a single sinuous skin formed from carefully crafted recycled brickwork.

Each building has its own space to come together, its own productive garden, its own lift lobby, its own address, and its own community.

Defence Housing Australia (DHA) has been providing quality homes for Defence families for over 30 years.

DHA wanted Arkadia to set a new benchmark in multi-residential buildings.

They wanted housing that prioritised environmental and social sustainability.

The challenge was to design 152 places to call home, 85 homes for defence personnel and their families, and 67 for new residents.

To achieve this, the design team wanted to know what the residents of Alexandria loved about their suburb and what they wanted to see in the future.

Through resident interviews, the team heard the hopes and worries of the existing community.

They wanted protection physically and acoustically from the busy traffic to the south, and more open space to the north.

Arkadia forms a protective wall to Sydney Park Road and the busy WestConnex Interconnector to the south and invites the community to share its Northern face with a sunlit park protected from the noise and the wind.

The entire ground floor plan is activated and engages with the surrounding streets.

The ground floor levels are lifted 1.2m to provide a visual connection between people’s entries, their decks, their living spaces and the streets below.

This also provides steps and stoops for neighbours, and seating for chance meetings.

The ground floor residents act as both gatekeepers and concierge.

Rather than a dislocated body of residents, Arkadia creates the opportunity for chance encounters and neighbourly connections.

Two key strategies were employed to deliver exceptional sustainability outcomes for Arkadia.

The first is a reduction of carbon and embodied energy during construction; the building envelope itself is almost carbon neutral given its half a million recycled bricks were lovingly reassembled on site.

The second is carbon reduction in the building’s operations.

Heating and cooling loads are reduced through right-sized window openings in the well-insulated building fabric, and through the use of the deep brick facade and steel, hoods to shade windows from the summer sun, but allow winter sun penetration.

The building’s vegetation has been designed to cool the roof and limit the urban heat island effect in a rapidly warming city.

It also serves to grow and occupy the facade, softening its appearance and further improving its thermal performance.

Arkadia was built to last, resembling a ruin that nature has slowly reclaimed.

Importantly, there is no gas plumbed into Arkadia.

Paying homage to the history of the site, the recycled brick facade talks to the future as a symbol of hope that values community, sustainability, and connection.

Arkadia is largely constructed of materials that are 100 years old and it has been built to last hundreds more.

Project Details


Breathe Architecture

Breathe Architecture is a Melbourne based studio, designing world-class architecture with an enduring and meaningful impact on housing affordability, accessibility and sustainability.

OCULUS Landscape Architecture

OCULUS is a cross-disciplinary design studio committed to connecting people with their environment and each other.

Their projects contribute to the public life of cities and towns, combining high levels of amenity with ecological sustainability. OCULUS works across all scales, from the design of parks, gardens, streets, mixed-use precincts and infrastructural landscapes, through to architectural structures and furniture.

DKO Architecture

DKO is a multidisciplinary team of more than 200 professionals working across six offices in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia.


Tom Ross

Tom Ross is an Australian architectural and editorial photographer.

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Design © 2022 Breathe Architecture, OCULUS Landscape Architecture, DKO Architecture. All Rights Reserved.| Images © 2022 Tom Ross. All Rights Reserved.

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