Characterful medium density housing!

Who else is having conversations where someone goes “ooh but it’s all leaky soulless apartments, we don’t want that”? Here’s a feast for your eyes and balm for your worried soul

Welcome to Talk Wellington’s random collection of neat medium-density examples to cheer you up, to show your friends, to tell the council you want … and to inspire density skeptics (presuming they’re in good faith, not just being awful). (Images’ links are in the image, caption or the text – click for more.)


Characterful, “old”… medium density

Montréal has a LOT of medium density residential neighbourhoods. They’re super liveable and beloved, and they are home to numbers of people that would sort out many of Wellington’s classic woes.

Here’s some pretty historic-y medium density which has actual awesome neighbourhood vitality and character by the bucketload, for everyone. Medium density can be… no more than two storeys, with lots of mixed use and features like shop-top housing!

No offence, Mt Vic / Khandallah / Thorndon / Woburn, but your neighbourhoods can’t hold a candle to the Castro for real liveable character, not just visual character.

So leafy!

Apartments you rent short-term: this is the Garden Wing of Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel. It was built in the 1970s!

Lush az. This is all open air

How ’bout indigenous character!

This shows how a stunning medium-density Utukoia could replace two detached homes on traditional quarter-acre sections with 14 new terrace homes (53 bedrooms total), communal facilities and a range of private, shared and public spaces. Phwoar.

Check out the Auckland Māori Design Hub for more delicious stuff

There are some smart folks stimulating Māori design and innovation at the Āpōpō accelerator right here in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, run by the Indigenous Design and Innovation Aotearoa / IDIA team.

How about some modern character?

Check out the beautiful high density of the Urban Habitat Collective, coming soon right in Newtown:

Or the classic Zavos Corner in Mt Victoria

Or the beautiful Auckland CoHaus (read their epic story here)

Even ol’ Kiwibuild is finally doing lovely stuff in Onehunga:

How about the spaces in between the housing? Density done well brings your laneways to life as a part of people’s backyards, as in Queensland…

Or laneways old school style (because NZ has forgotten how to do really great liveable streets like this)

Go large

We really need comprehensive, multi-block developments to sort out whole areas of our cities. You can do ’em on something that’s underused space like… a golf course? Or even as a regeneration of… ooh, maybe a large area of detached housing, hello Kāinga Ora. So check out this thread on Vancouver’s Regent Park development.

Hello #densitydonewell: a big uplift in density is helping fund all sorts of fantastic public amenities for the residents of the varied and accessible apartments: green space, schools, lovely public realm, community gardens, people-friendly street grid…

Be still, our beating hearts….

And finally… DensityNOTdonewell

While we tend to agree with Bernard Hickey that the battle over densifying suburbs is the battle of our generation, there’s plenty of reasonable property-owning folks who are genuinely, good-faith worried. They’re worried that crappy, ugly things will be built – and are vulnerable to being scaremongered by wild claims about housing values (hat tip Property Investors Federation). And let’s be honest: NZ has strong historical form in doing medium density badly – especially badly in construction, which means bad financially for those who bought in them.

The cars seem to have the best of this bargain…

And bad design is far from history: there’s still plenty of crap designs out there, thanks to our unfamiliarity with good-quality medium density. Here’s one example of rubbish medium density that appears to deny its residents most of the benefits of density done well like access to green space and social connection.

So let’s also be clear: nobody wants crap design or construction, and we absolutely don’t have to accept it “because housing crisis”. So let’s get more and more people on the bandwagon for good medium density, #densitydonewell!

What other examples of great (or grotty) medium density do you know?

How do they make you feel and why?

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