Housing the Homeless

The site has been owned and operated by The Salvation Army (TSA) over 3 decades as a hostel for homeless people with support services, but COVID has prompted a rethink regarding the suitability of dormitory accommodation. This proposal re-subdivides the site, constructing a new building with 50 compact self-contained apartments for the long term homeless, with expanded TSA services at ground and lower ground floors. An independent mixed retail/commercial/ residential building will occupy the southern end.

TSA outreach services, with communal spaces for residents surrounding a landscaped courtyard occupy the ground level. The typical levels above have 12 apartments per floor, organised around the courtyard. A communal landscaped roof terrace is provided at Level 4 to the primary street frontage, and a higher wing along the secondary lane frontage. The core is centrally located, with 2 lifts and two enclosed fire stairs linked by open access galleries on all levels.

The proposal adopts the all-too-rare site strategy of a courtyard housing type – a type particularly appropriate to such an urban site. The courtyard has a long dimension north south, so will receive excellent midday sun year-round. The perimeter walkways encircling the courtyard will function as shared verandas for residents. All apartments and communal areas enjoy light, air and orientation to the perimeter streets, supplemented by access, light, air and amenity from the courtyard. All apartments have well-sized balconies open to sun, breeze and urban outlook, located to take advantage of sun and outlook.

The architectural expression is enlivened by the interplay between the rhythmic volumes of projecting balconies and cornices, set against the solid masonry grid and infill panels. This consistent palette of forms and materials unites the facades and provides modelling and well-proportioned articulation. The three dimensional design creates a distinctive urban presence with appropriate modulation and detail that responds in a confident contemporary way to the nearby buildings, without recourse to pastiche of period detail.

For a century TSA have been providing services for the disadvantaged in this part of Surry Hills. The redevelopment of this outdated facility is being carried out in parallel with the redevelopment of their other nearby facilities, thus updating their services to better cater for today’s disadvantaged, offering the future residents a secure, sociable and amenable environment.