The Smart Apartment

And a Proposed Design for the National Information and Communications Technology Centre of Excellence

For the Bauhaus Serve City Sydney Trimester III, Wednesday 12 June 2002, in Sydney


  1. Introduction
  2. City Edge
  3. Wrong With iHome
  4. Home office design
  5. Design Project
  6. Smart Apartment Technology
  7. Design for NICTA
  8. Books
  9. Home Page

1. Introduction

This describes a project for the the design and construction of an Internet connected home office or "smart apartment". The building has been completed in the suburb of O'connor in Canberra, and the apartment is being fitted out with the "smarts". As well as providing a real apartment, it is intended the to promote the design of net connected homes and offices.


This presentation is part of the third trimester of the Bauhaus Kolleg III 2001/2002 Serve City:

... design an urban/architectural model for a site in Sydney located on the waterfront at cross roads between the Central Business District and inner city residential communities.

The focus for our investigation is the influence of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) on the living and working conditions. The known phenomenon of individualisation is leading to the personalisation of services. Our goal is to define and describe the possible formation of a personalised service zone in the urban condition of Sydney. This personalised service zone is more than the agglomeration of services; it will create the possibility to satisfy very individual needs, incorporating existing and known services but also those yet to come.

The Smart Apartment is in a similar transition zone in Canberra, on the periphery of the city. One flaw in the Serve City brief is the emphasis on personalised service and individual needs: both good architecture and information technology are about building community by communication between people. A hint of this is given by the name of Canberra's CBD: Civic. An environment where people people live in urban fortresses and talk to their Internet fridges is not a good one.

The project started from the need to find somewhere to live. Having been an Internet traveller for many years, it was a natural extension to turn the home into an Internet project. The project follows the approach descrinbed in the book Net Traveller:

This book is about how the Internet and the World Wide Web became a part of my everyday life - for business and pleasure. It consists of edited versions of web pages and other on-line documents prepared during my last five years working and living on-line.

During this technological tourist's trip I became one of the many people with a small part in helping set the direction of the Internet, rather than just being swept along on a wave of uncritical enthusiasm for technology. I hope this work will dispel some myths about how inevitable technological developments are and how infallible technologists are...

From Net Traveller - Exploring the Networked Nation, Tom Worthington, ACS 1999

Canberra: Encircled by Light

City and Environs (Item 38)

City and Environs (Item 38), from The Walter Burley Griffin design drawings of the city of Canberra, Ian Batterham, National Archives of Australia, 1998

The exhibition A Vision Splendid - How the Griffins imagined Australia's capital, at the National Archives, provides the opportunity to see the original drawings of Canberra by Marion Mahony Griffin. These were for Walter Burley Griffin's winning entry for the design of the city in the 1912 federal capital competition.

The drawings of Canberra are works of art, as well as technically accurate renderings remarkably similar to the scene of the city today. Australian Archives have done important work to preserve these drawings.

Triptych (Items 48-50)

Triptych (Items 48-50), , from The Walter Burley Griffin design drawings of the city of Canberra, Ian Batterham, National Archives of Australia, 1998

From ground level it is difficult to see the circular plan of Canberra. There is now another plan of circles across Canberra, designed by a twenty first century architect:

Canberra-wide coverage from several Hub sites Canberra-wide coverage from several "Hub" sites, from Introduction to TransACT, by Robin Eckermann, Chief Architect, TransACT, August 2001

The rings in this case are the fiber optic cable of the TransACT broadband data network. One such cable enters the basement of the Smart Apartment building.

The TransACT Communications network is based on a FTTC (Fibre- to-the-Curb) architecture in which high capacity optic fibres are taken "deep" into the network (within 300 metres of the connection to the home). The last segment of the connection to the user consists of a pair of copper wires, not unlike traditional telephony wiring. However, the short length and high quality of the copper link allow for vastly superior performance than is possible with the traditional phone network.

From: About TransACT, TransACT Communications Pty Limited (un-dated)

One little know aspect of the Griffin design for Canberra was that it was not just a regular pattern of circles and lines. The design was fitted into the landscape, both for aesthetic and engineering reasons: following the contours required less civil engineering and so was cheaper.

Socially Transact's plan follows the urban landscape. This has the irony that older suburbs can connected much more easily than newer suburbs which have underground power and thus no poles to hang the data cable from:

Fibres in the TransACT network support a small serving area, typically comprising between 45 and 65 homes or businesses. The transition from fibre to copper takes place at a node located on, or very close to, a power pole within each fibre serving area. The copper connection between the Pole Top Box (PTB) and the customer is dedicated exclusively to that customer - it is not shared with any of the neighbours. This type of wiring is often described as "star" wiring because the connections radiate out from a central point.

From: About TransACT, TransACT Communications Pty Limited (undated)

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