388 Barkly Street is currently under construction and due to be completed by the end of 2021. 388 Barkly Street is a distillation of the best practices of ethical architecture and a hopeful contribution to the field of design.

Project Name: Barkly Street
Studio Name:
Collaborating Architects:
Breathe Architecture
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Photography: c
Site size: 920 m2
Completion date: 2020
Building levels: 3

Barkly Street by Breathe Architecture - Sheet1
Living Room ©Rory Gardiner

Underpinning every detail and design decision is an understanding of nature’s crucial role in physical and mental health; a passionate belief that sustainability is absolutely paramount and an ethical approach to architecture that considers the environment, community and occupants.

During our research phase we questioned what is typically absent from apartments and present in family homes. We asked how an apartment could become a realistic alternative to the suburban home and a backdrop for the cherished experiences of family living.

The interiors were designed to exude comfort and warmth, while small everyday moments like morning benchtop coffees and opening French doors to a terrace contribute to a homely feel. Each residence also features generous storage options cleverly integrated into the design, such as a bench-seats that double as storage and mud rooms at entrances.

Barkly Street by Breathe Architecture - Sheet2
Kitchen ©Rory Gardiner

Barkly Street is integrated with biophilic design strategies. The building has been carefully considered to strengthen residents’ connection with nature through an abundance of natural light sources, dynamic vegetation and unobstructed views to native planting. Many details are informed by an understanding of the benefits conferred by interacting with organic life, such as the sunken lush central atrium, planted light wells and operable windows that enable natural light and fresh air.

A key theme in the design process was the idea of doing less to give more. Exploring the concept of void spaces such as light wells, skylights, double height spaces and the central atrium allowed the designers to deliver more for the residents, though with less saleable floor area. Void spaces at different scales of the building bring light, vegetation and air circulation into the tight confines of the existing warehouse.

Barkly Street by Breathe Architecture - Sheet3
Bedroom ©Rory Gardiner

A human centered design approach led to the creation of diverse spatial experiences. The point of entry and central atrium create a sense of welcome that flows naturally into each subsequent space, while the internal façade of the heritage brick shell has a rhythm that subtly curtails the interior to human scale with a textured, tactile appearance.

With collaboration as a key strength of the project, collaborations on locally made bespoke elements included to enhance everyday life, including distinctive hand- forged door handles by @rowsaan, a custom rain bench by @_bmdo and custom light fixtures by @ambiencelighting.

The project is a fossil fuel and gas free development powered by 100% green energy with a 30KW Plus Solar array on the roof and centralised heating and cooling. High performance glazing and operable windows contribute to occupier thermal comfort and further reduce energy use.  The homes are crafted with ethically sourced materials selected for their durability and a reduction in VOC off-gassing and carbon footprint. Key details include FSC-certified timber, recycled content in insulation and plasterboard, and eschewing harmfully produced elements such as chromed fittings.


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.