Local practice Bent Architecture created a neighbourhood-like complex of accommodation and communal facilities for support
Located in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, the WAYSS Youth Transition Hub – commissioned by Australia’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and designed by local practice Bent Architecture – provides a home and support network to vulnerable young people on the brink of homelessness.
Following a model of early intervention, the hub provides facilities and support to teenagers, mostly between 16 and 18, who have either left or been kicked out of home and would otherwise end up living on the streets. Alongside eight residential dwellings for stays typically lasting up to a year, WAYSS provides communal facilities and programmes to build community and equip young people with skills for independent living.
The dwellings resemble cottage-style homes, each with a planted front garden, a front porch and a gable roof – as well as a fully furnished kitchen, bathroom and bedroom (or two, for those with young children). An accompanying administration building comprises reception, offices, meeting rooms and a carer’s room, as well as a separate multipurpose space, complete with a lounge and a training kitchen.
Referencing the scale and form of neighbouring houses and continuing the formal rhythm of surrounding streets, the Youth Transition Hub nestles into its context in order to avoid the stigma of standing out, and to engender a sense of home. All the buildings are arranged around a central, communal garden.
Each home at WAYSS is designed so that interior daylight is maximised, which helps support wellbeing. The roofs host solar panels and are angled asymmetrically to best harness the sun’s energy, which reduces the hub’s running costs and environmental impact.
Timber detailing and colour is used in the units to bring warmth and character; the same palette of materials and colours is seen throughout the hub, even in office and administration spaces.
A training kitchen in the communal multipurpose space helps to teach young people the art of cooking. Adjacent to this, a lounge area and recreation space opens on to an outdoor deck with a dining table and barbecue. The deck flows into a shared outdoor area where a productive garden teaches the young residents how to grow their own food.
Common areas are designed to create a sense of community. Recognising the often complex backgrounds and emotional needs of different individuals at WAYSS, however, it was important to give the residents the opportunity to mediate their participation and maintain boundaries where necessary.
Small gestures such as a covered seating area under the eave of each dwelling means residents can feel like a part of the communal space without leaving their home. All dwellings have private outdoor space as well, giving residents agency over how and when they engage with their community.
Photography by Tatjana Plitt