Urban Insider Episode One: 120 Campbell St, Collingwood by Milieu


The densification of our built environment is inevitable as our population swells and we seek out ways in which to manage urban growth.

Cities globally are grappling with density -- but can you “densify” without compromising social or environmental outcomes?

One answer is medium density on a smaller footprint, which is exactly what property developer Milieu have set out to do in Melbourne.

Teaming up with architects DKO and SLAB, Milieu -- also taking on the role of builder -- have created a clever example of a small-footprint vertical multi-residential development in Melbourne’s inner-north.

Located at 120 Campbell Street, Collingwood the development doesn’t just challenge the notion of verticality in residential living, but also attempts to create flexible living arrangements that provide adaptability to apartment life and cater to the specific needs of a broader range of occupants.

“The objective of this work is to facilitate the change in thinking around apartment living to a more international mindset – that is apartment living for the long term rather than as a transitional housing option,” Milieu Director Michael McCormack said.

“The focus is on buying once and buying well.”

The project team also includes, HUB Furniture and Studio HiHo who assisted Milieu in marketing the project.     

Through a climatically responsive facade and the arrangement of the buildings program, the team behind the Campbell Street development have prioritised adaptability and quality of living on a challenging inner Melbourne site.        

The Campbell Street site is challenging -- occupying a tiny 76 square metre parcel of land Milieu took an innovative approach in adapting the arrangement of the building’s program to offer two residences with approximately 140 square metres of internal living space in each dwelling.

The six-storey residences are light-filled, and climatically-responsive, comprising a basement lounge, ground-level garage, two bedrooms and a roof-top terrace.


The development drew inspiration from residential housing typologies in densely-populated international cities where often buildings take up the entire site footprint or are at least built to the boundaries.

Tadao Ando’s Azuma House occupies a 57 square metre site in the dense Japanese city of Osaka. The Azuma House, not unlike Campbell Street, had the challenge of creating a residential offering, on a tiny site, that prioritises living amenity and doesn’t waste a single square metre of the site.


Campbell Street is situated within a part of Collingwood that has an industrial and light commercial history, and, according to McCormack, the context had a significant influence on the strong and bold design of the property.

“It is a striking addition to the neighbourhood that passersby can appreciate and being tagged by graffiti only adds to its character and is somewhat of an initiation into the area.” he said.  

McCormack also acknowledges that Collingwood has undergone significant change over the past few years, of which Milieu has played its part.

“Milieu has contributed to this, we hope in a positive manner, however the pace of change has had its challenges.

“Particularly in relation to maintaining the eclectic nature of the built and social environment, which makes Collingwood such a vibrant suburb to live and spend time in.” he said.

According to McCormack, Milieu have placed their focus on occupant amenity and liveability by looking at different ways of living in one space as well as ensuring their buildings contribute positively to the evolving Collingwood landscape.

“This is the case with our latest project based in Collingwood to be launched towards the end of this year. This project will be an evolution of our Peel By Milieu project. We have the same team working on the project – DKO and DesignOffice – and are supported in the project by our development partner Buxton Group.”


When asked what buyers are typically looking for in Collingwood, McCormack reckons buyers are most interested in good quality design and amenity and are willing to pay to have them.

“Many past purchasers come from a design background or industry and appreciate these qualities in apartment living.

“Typically, these people have been young professional couples (dual income no kids), with the odd young and expectant family and downsizer” he said.  

Creating value through verticality  

The team behind the Campbell St project placed great emphasis on creating a high level of livability within a vertical home. McCormack said this was paramount within the design philosophy. The development was structured around how the occupant would interact with the building as a whole, but also the interaction with each individual level.    

To create better living amenity that suited the context of Campbell St, the development flipped the traditional model (ground floor living, bedrooms above). The arrangement of the levels played an integral part in utilising the buildings height and outlook.

“The living space, that typically forms part of the lower levels of townhouses was placed higher in the building to take advantage of the open outlook and privacy.

“This way it also allowed for a cohesive connection to the rooftop by aligning the social areas of the home together on the upper levels,” McCormack said.  


McCormack also acknowledges that by including smart storage and adaptable furnishing pieces it allows for flexibility in living arrangements and effective use of space, which is crucial for the occupant within vertical living.

Smart storage and adaptable furnishing allowed for flexibility and effective use of space, “Smart storage solutions and integrated joinery have been included on every level.”

“A laundry shoot was incorporated from the landing of each bedroom level connecting to the basement. While having fully operable doors to the base of the light well it allows for significant natural ventilation for clothes drying out of the weather.”

“The kitchen and living areas have multi-function design elements allowing reconfiguration through adaptable joinery pieces. A moveable timber slab located on the kitchen table acts as both a perfect chopping block and extended bench space but can be removed to increase the dining capacity up to eight people” he said.  


Morning, noon, night: How Campbell St adapts to its context   

Morning, Noon, Night. By Milieu Property from Love Design Initiative on Vimeo.

The building’s exterior is wrapped in a pressed and perforated metal cladding, creating a jewellery-box-like form. Operable screens open west to the street, allowing the building to not only change in external appearance but also adapt and evolve to the internal need of the residents.

The light through the facade’s perforations illuminate the interiors throughout the day with a beautiful circular-patterned shadow and inversely creates a lantern effect in the evening -- falling softly onto the street.


With respect to materiality, the strong exteriors were carried inside with the use of steel and raw concrete forms, but softened by the natural finishes of timber and stone. This allowed styling with cool tones, structured pieces and masculine aesthetics.

Connecting each level is a striking steel and timber stair set against a light-well that spans the height of each property, allowing cross flow ventilation and natural light into the core of each dwelling.

- Photography by Tom Blachford & Kate Ballis

- Film production by Love Design Initiative

The Urban Developer is proud to partner with Milieu Property to deliver this article to you. In doing so, we can continue to publish our free daily news, information, insights and opinion to you, our valued readers.

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