Mirvac - Apartment Complex

Heritage Bondi reimagined

Centred around a heritage-listed Victorian villa, this distinctive modern development respects the historical and aesthetic significance of its site.


Philip O'Brien

Dotted among the modern houses and apartment blocks of Sydney’s eastern suburbs are reminders of the district’s nineteenth century architectural heritage. One such building is Scarba House, a heritage-listed villa in Wellington Street, Bondi. When Mirvac Projects acquired the property and surrounds in 2013, the challenge was to create not only a modern development but one which respected the historical and aesthetic significance of the site.

The Moreton is the result. A complex of five mid- and low-rise apartments, neighbouring Scarba House have replaced the former administration buildings on the 1.1-hectare site. Now 190 residential apartments of one, two and three bedrooms, as well as a row of three-bedroom terraces, have been finished in warm, textured materials and a light and beachy colour palette.

Many of the homes have stunning views over Bondi as well as towards the harbour and the city. Meanwhile, Scarba House has also been restored and its century-old Moreton Bay fig trees still shade the landscaped garden of the complex. For these efforts, Mirvac won the HIA Australian Apartment Complex award for 2018.

Mirvac - Apartment Complex
The interiors are restrained with soft and muted tones
Mirvac - Apartment Complex
Restrained interiors with soft and muted tones

The restored Scarba House and its garden area form the focal point of the Moreton development. Originally built as a four-room cottage it was extended in the 1880s to become a grand mansion in the late Victorian Italianate style. It was acquired by the Benevolent Society of New South Wales in 1917 for children and women in need and, later, for welfare services and residential care for the elderly.

Project director Graham Cooper says that Mirvac has extensive experience in working with heritage buildings and ensured that Scarba House, now also known as the ‘Moreton Manor’, and its surrounding gardens were preserved.

‘The architectural firm CO-AP was commissioned with heritage firm Design 5 Architects to undertake the restoration,’ he says.

In addition to redesigning it as a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home, this work included the reinstatement of verandas and transformation of the original sandstone stables into a poolside pavilion connected to the garden. The house retains its original joinery while its ornate fireplaces, grand staircase with detailed pressed metal wall panels, architraves and decorative cornices have been restored. New stone and timber floors extend into the landscaped gardens where the established pine and Moreton Bay fig trees remain an important feature.

The restored Scarba House and its garden area form the focal point of the Moreton development

‘We wanted to maintain the historical integrity of the building while adapting it to 21st century living,’ Graham says.

The Moreton does not draw its architectural aesthetic directly from the heritage building, but is both sympathetic and complementary to it. Smart Design Studio was engaged for the architecture and interiors of the new complex.

Spanning a block between Ocean and Wellington Streets in Bondi, the development comprises five new buildings with angled white walls and stepped façades. Each building is named after a famous botanist: Noble, Ashby, Felix, Archer and Rica. A six-storey building forms the spine of the complex, framing the central garden court. In addition to a three-storey building and a row of two-storey, three-bedroom terraces, an eight-storey building, similar in scale to neighbouring apartment blocks, fronts Ocean Street.

The project presented major challenges for Mirvac, not least being the excavation of the sandstone foundations on the site. Another challenge was a heritage-listed sandstone wall along the Wellington Street boundary of the property.

Mirvac - Apartment Complex
The new buildings reflect what you see in the streets of Bondi
Mirvac - Apartment Complex
The residential apartments have been finished in warm, textured materials and a light and beachy colour palette

The development comprises five new buildings with angled white walls and stepped façades.

‘As part of the development conditions we removed it, piece by piece, stored it off-site and, once the building work was finished, put it back exactly as before.’ And the huge, heritage-listed Moreton Bay fig trees on the site were also a constraint which resulted in the basement carpark being carefully configured to leave their root zones undisturbed.

The Moreton impressed the HIA award judges with the high level of workmanship displayed both inside and out – particularly the detailing, finishes and colour scheme. From the cool and elegant lobbies, to the white-tiled flooring and the white-painted brickwork with crafted joinery, the interiors are restrained with soft and muted tones.

Rooms are generously sized and designed to be easily furnished. Open plan kitchens integrate seamlessly with living and dining areas while large windows, maximise the natural light and leafy outlook. All apartments and terraces feature a balcony or courtyard. The penthouse has 2.7-metre high ceilings, full-height doors and flush floor surfaces that extend from indoors to the balcony.

‘We wanted to maintain the historical integrity of the building while adapting it to 21st century living’

The Moreton was developed with a commitment for each building to exceed the required Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) level by 25 per cent.

Graham notes, ‘there is recycled water via rainwater tanks, use of solar panels, tinted glass, LED lighting, composting onsite and a communal garden where the residents can plant their own fruit and vegetables.’

This communal area also features a BBQ, a tool shed, tables and chairs and even a sand pit for young children. A walkway, between Wellington and Ocean Streets, is open for public access from 7am to 10pm.

Construction for this award winner took just 25 months. And it’s a measure of the skill of the builders, architects and designers that the development complements Scarba House so well.

‘The new buildings reflect what you see in the streets of Bondi,’ Graham says.

‘The designers spotted the context and framed the heritage house perfectly’.

He says that Mirvac is delighted with the award. The Moreton reflects the group’s mission to ‘reimagine urban life through a legacy of sustainable, connected and vibrant urban environments’.

At a glance


Award: 2018 HIA Australian Apartment Complex

Partnered by: Lawn Solutions

Builder: Mirvac

Location: Bondi, NSW

Energy Rating: BASIX 50/26

Construction: Orientated to maximise views and sunlight

Inclusions: Rubber underlay installed with carpet floors and in tiled areas, reverse cycle airconditioning, energy efficient lighting, semi-frameless glass shower screens, audio visual intercom, security alarm and motion detectors, communal kitchen garden, rainwater tank, solar panels, freestanding bath, porcelain slabs in kitchen and bathroom

Materials: Miele appliances, stainless steel sink, chrome tapware, wool carpet, aluminium framed window glazing, stone benchtops.

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