10 May 21

U City an Honorable Mention in the FastCo awards

U City is a radical mixed-use development that supports South Australians striving to improve their lives by helping them overcome adversity and disadvantage. It has just scored an Honorable Mention in the Architecture category of the FastCo World Changing Ideas Awards, 2021.

Progressive and future-focused, Uniting Communities is a not-for-profit community services organisation supporting and engaging with more than 70,000 South Australians each year.


Right in the centre of a major city, U-City provides a home for Uniting Communities to work across more than 90 community service programs – including aged care, disability, youth services, homelessness intervention, foster care and family intervention. It unites corporate services, retail, commercial tenancies, an adaptable worship/function space, vertically distributed publicly accessible communal spaces, disability respite apartments, specialist disability apartments and retirement living apartments in a specialised, fully-serviced vertical village.

U-City welcomes its varied blend of users with a progressive experience that invites diversity and builds a healthy and sustainable community. The combination of universally designed and tailored spaces share an identity driven by emphasis on support, independence and accessibility, expressed as distinct ‘neighbourhoods’ within the one building form.

Each ‘neighbourhood’ has its own community space and outdoor terrace embedded within the bronze coloured folds of the building’s façade. Inbari Ku, the community space on level 3, invites the public to interact and share the space creating opportunity to foster relationships, display public art and interact with other service users. As a defining feature of the building, the bronze folds create an elegant architectural demarcation which celebrates the diverse expressions of community.

Located on an active pedestrian and cycle thoroughfare, U-City encourages the public inside. The ground plane is an extension of the footpath, removing entry barriers typically seen on commercial buildings and introducing large openings on all street and lane facing elevations. The project gives back to the public realm with urban design moves such as the creation of Penaluna Place, a new pedestrian laneway between a main street and the Central Market. This landscaped laneway, retail, cafe and U-City concierge provide areas to stop, rest, interact and participate with life in the city.

Its design celebrates Uniting Communities’ long-standing history on the site, respecting the elegance of the past built form by integrating elements such as the hipped function centre ceiling, fragmented façade form and embedded diagrams in the glazing frit. Artworks throughout incorporate materials salvaged from the previous building and invite the public to consider the site’s evolution and its people. Additional pieces reflect diversity in community and communicate a sense of place that welcomes and enriches connections.

The variety of building users and their needs leads to a complex and diverse range of design solutions. Decisions regarding efficiency and cost were continually referenced against what value the space would provide to the end users and public. The rationalisation of structural elements, selection of materials and overall scale and stacking of the project were made in order to maximise the operation of Uniting Communities services and commitment to their clients and the public.

U City demonstrates innovative outcomes that successfully incorporate often competing and complex technical and social parameters into a truly diverse building that prioritises its role to the public and the city, and creates a benchmark for Welfare in Architecture.

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