Breathe engages in pro bono work for not-for-profits, charitable organisations and for those people who might just be down on their luck. If you’ve been working for the planet or for your community and if you need our help, please let us know.

The Commons

In 2007, we looked across Melbourne and saw that the housing system was broken. It was inequitable, environmentally unsustainable, it was eroding the community it was meant to serve. We thought that we should try to do something, anything to help fix this mess. We purchased the site next to Anstey station in Brunswick with the help of five of our friends, and designed Nightingale Apartments, the building that would become the inspiration for Nightingale Housing.

The impacts of the Global Financial Crisis washing across our shores in 2009 led to the cancellation of the project funding. With the finances stalled, we needed help (about $7 million worth) and Small Giants came to our aid, taking the project over and changing the name to The Commons. The project was completed in 2013 (it was still great, even though we liked the original name better).

While it won the 2014 National Architecture Award for Housing and a National Architecture Award for Sustainability, what made it special was what it meant to the people who lived there and the thousands of Melbournians that toured the building the following year. The architecture was great, but what took us by surprise was the community that formed. It was magical. Residents shared in working bees, strung carnival lights across their street, planted trees in the neighbourhood, helped each other when times were bad and celebrated together when times were good. When David Bowie died, they installed a four-storey LED lighting bolt on the façade of the building to ease the pain of commuters missing Ziggy Stardust. The list of what they achieved was unending.

This was the project that taught us that all of our work had to have community at its core.

Nightingale Housing

Following The Commons, people started writing to us asking us to do it again. We thought about it, took a deep breath and dived in. 

With that in mind, Jeremy designed the Nightingale model, a triple bottom line housing model that focussed on people and the planet, not profit. We decided we would try again and this time, stay in control of the finances. We purchased the site across the road from The Commons in 2014, christening the project Nightingale 1. We raised investor funds from leading Melbourne architects Architecture Architecture, Austin Maynard Architects, Claire Cousins Architects, MRTN Architects, Six Degrees Architects, Wolveridge Architects, along with 17 other impact investors. 

Our vision was for a new housing system. It was about building homes, not housing as an asset class. It was about fostering community to combat rising social isolation, and designing buildings that positively tackled the issues of climate change rather than adding to the problem. It empowered architects to democratise the capital by raising equity in small chunks from people who cared about their city and wanted to harness their investment dollars for good.

Like its precursor, Nightingale 1 went on to receive a National Award for Housing and a National Award for Sustainability. It also won the Melbourne Prize but as before, it was the people that made it really special. This thing we started was important and we had to share it. The Robin Boyd Foundation helped us in this mission and in 2016 we employed one of the Nightingale 1 residents to help us write a governance model and establish a Board with the help of some of the first architects that had invested in Nightingale 1. We shared all of our intellectual property in the belief that with the help of an independent Nightingale Board, architects around Australia could take this model and reshape the future of our cities.

Enter Nightingale Housing…and the rest as they say, is history.

Listen to the Future Building Podcast Is this the most trusted housing brand in Australia?

The Cobargo Santa Project

The recent bushfires devastated so many communities, but none more so than Cobargo. We all remember the images of the exhausted firefighter not wanting to shake hands with our Prime Minister; we all remember the Prime Minister asking “Was it because he was tired?” and being told, “No, it’s because his house has just burnt to the ground”.

We at Breathe, like every other Australian who lived through the horrific 2019/2020 summer, wanted to do what we could to help those brave RFS firefighters who had lost their own homes defending other people’s homes and lives. To that end, we embarked on the Cobargo Santa Project.

Breathe provided pro-bono Architectural services to the brave RFS firefighter Dave and his wife Barbara. Throughout their lives, the couple have fostered over 400 children. They are kind, giving and generous people. Not only did they lose their home in the fire, they also lost their shed containing Dave’s Santa sleigh: Dave, with a beard to match, is also the Cobargo town Santa, bringing joy to the children in their community every year on Christmas.

A GoFundMe campaign funded the rebuilding of Dave’s shed and sleigh. But what Dave and Barbara needed most was a new home.

Breathe engaged with suppliers and collaborators to provide pro-bono material and appliances for the project. Among the many things donated were kitchen and laundry appliances, solar panels, solar installation, heat pump, heating and hot water plant and equipment, lighting, carpet, paint and insulation. Read more about the architectural features of this home on our project page.

Living in temporary structures with their foster children since the fires, we worked very hard to make sure that Dave and Barbara were out of home for as brief a period as possible. At Christmas 2019 their house burned down. At Christmas 2020, they were celebrating in their new home — with their family.

We can’t express enough our gratitude to the following organisations for their generous donations:

Fisher & Paykel, Tradelink, Taubmans, Universal Fans, BREC Energy, Studio All, Form Brick, Accent Windows, Fielders, Automatic Heating

The burnt remains of a house among burned trees. The house's chimney and two metal water tanks can still be identified.A free-standing house with metal cladding and two big windows in a green landscape.

Theodore’s outdoors

Lily and Henry opened Theodore's (the successor of Host) shortly before the pandemic took hold. ⁠They bought responsibly sourced, local and seasonal food and drinks to the people of Brunswick and they always made us feel welcome.⁠ Like most of Melbourne’s hospitality, COVID hit them really hard.⁠ They didn’t give up, instead they transformed into Ted’s Grocer, providing that same fresh produce for local households. In early 2021, they’ve found a way to bring Theodore’s back to us. Breathe worked with them to create a place for outdoor dining, for people, by activating the street.⁠

We would like to thank Taubmans who generously donated paint from their new Chromatic Joy collection to add colour to the space. We would like to thank Moreland City Council for working through the street closure with the local community.⁠ We would like to thank BREC for illuminating Saxon Street with magical street lights.⁠

Lastly, we would like to thank the brilliant local community for supporting Theodore’s through the good times and the hard times, for having your buildings painted to create an immersive place and importantly, for coming together on a hot summers day to paint the street, to claim it back for everybody.

A cul-de-sac painted with orange, blue and green stripes. Empty tables and chairs are placed on the street, in front of a terrance house that has a sign reading Theodore's

Brunswick silo mural

Our community is a place made up of many cultures and many faiths. It is rich because of its diverse history and community. It is a place that had its heart broken on the day of the Christchurch shootings.⁣

The image of Jacinda hugging a muslim woman after the shootings has become a beacon of tolerance, love and peace in these divisive times.⁣ We want this message, this moment in time, remembered. We want to learn from it, we want it to hold us up, to strengthen us. We want everyone to know we are them, that they are us and, that we are, and always will be, stronger together.⁣

Breathe worked with the local community to bring the renowned street artist, Loretta Lizzio to Melbourne to paint the Tinning street silos. The silos stand 75 feet tall and are a singular landmark on the Brunswick skyline. Loretta agreed to donate her time to paint an image of unity, an image of hope, and an image of peace on these massive silos. ⁣

Broken hearted but not broken.

Florence Street pocket park

Noting a need for public, open green space and relief from the relentless built form, Breathe worked closely with residents from The Commons and Nightingale 1 to successfully petition Moreland City Council for the construction of a ‘pocket park’ at the end of Florence Street in Brunswick.

The pocket park provides a pooch and pedestrian friendly space for residents and visitors of the Florence Street cul-de-sac to gather, engage and enjoy the treats on offer at nearby Home.One and Steam Junkies.

Our ultimate goal is to have a series of pocket parks installed in the Moreland municipality, enhancing the sense of community in the neighbourhood.

Upfield Urban Forest

The Upfield Shared Path is one of the most used car-free spaces in Moreland, and yet much of it is a waste land. More than ever Melbourne needs cool, shady, beautiful spaces that encourage bike use and walking, while simultaneously storing water, carbon and increasing biodiversity. Ordinary people within our community are working on this transformation and have formed the Upfield Urban Forest Group. Breathe are proud supporters of this community group and we help out wherever we can.

The Upfield Urban Forest group’s mission is to transform the Upfield shared path and greens spaces either side of the train-line into a safe, beautiful urban forest. A place where users can experience tranquility, shade, inspiration and connectedness. Come and join the transformation.

Several people doing gardening work on a green strip next to train lines. Kids playing in the corner.

Nightingale Night School

Master of Architecture Design Thesis students at University of Melbourne are offered a selection of studio options each semester, including Nightingale Night School. The School is led by Jeremy McLeod, Managing Director of Nightingale Housing and Founding Director of Breathe, as well as members of the Breathe and Nightingale Housing teams.

The currently accepted multi-residential development model is aimed at delivering buildings with maximum financial yields. It places no focus on the people who will live in the building, or the impacts it will have on the environment and local communities. 
The Nightingale Night School gives students the opportunity to learn in depth the Nightingale Housing process of delivering carbon neutral, triple-bottom-line housing at cost. It lets them push the boundaries of multi-residential architectural design to create meaningful contributions to the city, and exceptional spaces for people to live in.

Students are taught how to run financial feasibility studies on project sites. They gain unique insights into the interaction between architectural design and other disciplines involved in the procurement process, such as development managers, financiers and community housing providers. They are given the tools to undertake a Nightingale project and use these to design, in detail, a medium-density apartment building on a real site in Melbourne — a prototype of their vision for the future of urban housing in our city.

The Nightingale Night School logoA render of an interior space showing a living room and a kitchen.