“When you live in a place where anything you could ever eat, drink, see or feel is within walking distance, few want to give up the luxury.”
Originally one municipality called Newtown, Fitzroy and Collingwood were Melbourne’s first suburb. At that time, feeling far from the bustle of a burgeoning city centre, the green neighbourhood was an incredibly attractive place to live.
Fitzroy’s eastern hills quickly filled with large, stately homes and many of these original bluestone terraces remain today. By the turn of the 20th century, the residential streetscapes of Fitzroy and Collingwood were punctuated with places for light industry.
Around Victoria, it was understood that Fitzroy and Collingwood was where things were made. Fast forward a century and many of these spaces still exist, although often in an evolved form. SMA Projects has been lucky enough to use its vision to breathe new life into many of these historic buildings.
A Collingwood Icon
It’s 4pm on a Tuesday in 1892. The crowds have begun to gather outside the pubs lining Johnston Street. Local workers have stomped out of their factories en masse and are waiting for the doors to swing open. Their drink of choice? Collingwood-brewed beer; well-known as the lubricant of the creative working class, helping spur ideas that outlive their makers.
By the early 20th century, mergers and buyouts led to the liquidation of most local beer makers and for a long time the taps all read the same. The Yorkshire Brewery was one of a handful of places where malt production survived through to modern day, only closing in the 1980s. It was here that the malt for beers like Carlton Draught and Melbourne Bitter was produced – cherished local icons that they are.
Today, the polychrome-bricked brew tower remains a Collingwood landmark – an emblem of the fallen soldiers of the industry. When the opportunity to write a new chapter in the life of the former brewery arose, SMA Projects knew the tower needed to remain the project centrepiece.
Loft apartments spiral up the structure now, featuring interiors that celebrate the meticulously restored brickwork as proudly as their contemporary finishes. This pillar of heritage-infused residences connects to a community of ultra-modern homes by a landscaped piazza at street level. It’s precisely the kind of place where two neighbours might bump into each other and agree to catch up over a locally-produced beer.
A Cinematic Moment
The future looked hulking and metallic. Towers speared the sky, Herculean engines flooded the streets with steam and automatons filled the screen. It’s 1929, and at The Lyric in Fitzroy, Metropolis stuns the matinee crowd. No one present had wondered much how the deep future would look or feel – but shuffling from their seats in awe, the image burned bright in their minds.
The Lyric was hallowed ground for generations of Fitzroy locals seeking stories, escape or simply somewhere warm and quiet to while away the afternoon. Melbourne was once a city studded with grand movie theatres, where colossal Wurlitzer organs would be played for guests before features and throughout intermissions. While few of these original theatre spaces remain, their cultural legacies live on in new ways.
When SMA Projects began work on The Lyric, it knew the vast auditorium was beyond repair and would need to be reimagined from the ground up. Producing the site’s reboot didn’t mean abandoning its spirit: entering the The Lyric today, there is a cinematic sensibility to its design.
Subtle cutouts in thoroughfares and outdoor spaces frame images of active lives and small, intimate moments. The Lyric features a compact screening room for its 21st century evolution into a residential development. A reverential nod to its heritage, this communal space continues to bring people together over a shared love for the pictures.
A Future Classic
When B and H moved in, twenty years ago this March – in a blissful gap between Covid lockdowns – it was a quantum relationship leap. Back then, their Fitzroy home was a well-planned stepping stone to a spacious future in the country. Now the year is 2042, and they’re still on Gore Street. They’ve moved up a few floors of the same building, snagging a bigger unit for a family that’s swelled to include two dogs and an eight year old, named P. Sometimes stepping stones just feel perfect underfoot.
SMA Projects doesn’t solely focus on heritage – its gaze is set on the future, too. Fitzroy Ltd was designed to be a place where people want to spend a lifetime. It’s a neighbourhood in which such lofty goals feel achievable, where neighbours are united in the same aspiration for The Melbourne Dream.
When you live in a place where anything you could ever eat, drink, see or feel is within walking distance, few want to give up the luxury.
To ensure Fitzroy Ltd is a place for long term living, the building was designed to marry with the tree-lined streetscape. The contemporary homes inside pay careful attention to natural light, wise use of space and fine material choices. An intimate internal courtyard, and rooftop garden with city skyline views, create a sense of community between residents – making Fitzroy Ltd the kind of place you could see yourself for decades to come.
In a new editorial series, SMA Projects reflects on two prestigious Melbourne postcodes.
Learn more about our our projects in Fitzroy in Collingwood by subscribing to our newsletter: