122 Roseneath Street: the building that speaks and acts like a brand

I was introduced by David Mousa of The Urban Developer to Giuseppe ‘Pinot’ Demaio last year. Having worked stints in magazine publishing, editing and art directing, and as a senior art director for Nike, Demaio and his citizen-creative Local Peoples has since partnered up with a bunch of architects and developers to found Assemble. Driven by an unwavering belief in the significance of human-centred design, he is the brand-conscious powerhouse behind the marvellous 122 Roseneath St, a new residential development in Clifton Hill, Melbourne.

At first sight, 122 Roseneath St is just like any other well-designed, small footprint, community-orientated collaboration. An Assemble, Icon Co. and Wulff Projects project, it’s a design sympathetic to both the area’s legacy and to the brutalist building that makes up its bones. Aiming at a mixed community, it consists of 48 apartments and 18 townhouses, and makes, in its marketing literature, fine claim for being more about the quality of life than it is the quantity of units shifted, it’s smart features there to ‘improve and facilitate preferred lifestyles, it’s aim to ‘tread lightly on the planet’.

None of which we haven’t seen or heard before. The interesting part though is how Demaio, whose expertise is in brands and not property, managed to sell 90% of the units upfront, during an early registrations day. The short answer is human-centred design; the long, a process that began six years ago – with a giant getting-to-know-what people-want-and-need survey – and ended with the units being designed in collaboration with the buyers. It included:

Clearly, it’s a process that goes well beyond the data hunts, outreach work and profile building as practiced by today’s developer. The buyer is transformed from pure consumer to co-creator, the not-yet-built product possessing a value born of the sense of empowerment that customisation affords. Selling 57 out of 66 properties in under 12 hours will not have surprised those involved, such was the level of trust of the relationship: ‘The participation in our design processes and the feedback process meant so many people felt comfortable committing to the project.’

If this is all beginning to sound more like the language of a brand, then welcome, dear friends, to the future. What we have in somewhere like 122 Roseneath St is a prototype for new-builds that possess the character and personality of places that have earned their stripes over much time. It barely exists and yet – marketing itself on the input that decided its design, and on the fact that it is the result of a genuine collaboration between architect, developer and user – it’s real, it’s happening, and it’s made brand advocates out of the very people that matter most: the people who live here.

My thanks to David Mousa for his informative piece Designer branded developments: how human-centred design can create more marketable experiences for consumers, which gives us much insight to the long lead-in to 122 Roseneath St.


Image credit: Local Peoples (Main Header Image, and Featured Image)