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Reimagining the Six-Pack Apartment

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

First popping up in the 1930s, peaking in the post-war period, the six-pack apartment building design has been a staple in Melbourne’s real estate landscape for decades. Known for its stripped-down façade that prioritises function and efficiency over style, the six-pack apartment has been disdained as ‘truly horrifying’ by architect Harry Seidler. Strolling down Type Street, Richmond, one such building can be seen. This 38 sqm apartment, however, has been renovated by architect Jack Chen.

From the outside, the Type Street apartment is not so different from other six-pack apartments. Its pale, brick façade stands atop a paved yard built with only one plant to provide a splash of green on the otherwise drab exterior. A set of stairs leads up to the third and top floor of the building, its steps browned with age. Rust climbs along the metal window ledges. All in all, the age of this apartment is visible in its design and material.

Yet, thanks to Chen, its interior is shockingly different. Refitted with wood panelling and floors, its interior is one that breathes a modernity and natural warmth that is sorely lacking in its exterior. Chen favours a minimalist design that does not compromise on the use of natural materials and style, while building in features that maximise the compact space available.


An extra timber partition slides out to become a dining nook, with foldable stools stored in the wall. An office corner can be pulled out in minutes. There is a TV and appliances in the wall, and the hallway coat and shoe rack doubles up as a wine rack.

Chen’s choice of interior design also kept in mind cost. The six-pack apartment building is favoured for its low cost, and Chen’s limited budget was spent on off-the-shelf furniture from Bunnings and Ikea, with only one major splurge on a sofa and armchair shipped from Sweden.

The interior structure is also maintained; Chen’s only change to the apartment’s structure was the replacement of the wall between the kitchen and bathroom, switching it out for a special glass material, the transparency of which can be adjusted with a remote.

With an increasingly dense Melbourne CBD population where growth threatens to outpace infrastructure, Chen presents a potential for reimagining how we can maximise space and how we see six-pack apartments. “It’s a wonderful view of the city,” Chen observed when speaking of a couple who watch the sunset together on the communal staircases. (ET)

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