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Client: The Mounties Group

Location: Freshwater NSW, Australia

Status: Complete

Program: Senior Living, Club, Childcare, Community Facilities, Swimming Pool

Scale: 1.56 ha

Year: 2014-2019

CHROFI has collaborated with Architectus and JMD Design on the design of Harbord Diggers in Freshwater. Selected through a design competition, the winning concept responds to the local character of the area and takes advantage of the site’s panoramic views. The design opens the site to the public providing a network of through site links. The diverse range of functions are arranged in a manner that optimise the relationship between the club and senior housing. Our aim was a project that both serves the nearby local community and celebrates its iconic headland spot. The proposed development involves a new club home, seniors’ living village, community facilities, child care, fitness centre and public swimming pool.

While the Harbord Diggers Club was born during hard times and created by working class people, what remains today is a continuation of the will to support others, to be the central social institution within the Freshwater and Peninsula Community and to be an institution with the ability to tap the collective human spirit to provide immediate support when called upon. The club today is re-imagined as an‘Intergenerational Community Hub’ to both broaden and deepen its relevance to today’s Northern Beaches community.

 The design draws upon the attributes of traditional hilltop villages that are simultaneously coherent through their use of material and detail, and complex, with each building and space within the village being unique. This approach allows the overall project to be singular –‘The Diggers’ – while at the same time, permits the complexity of the diverse program and site conditions to bring richness and interest to the project.Sited on one of Sydney’s iconic headlands, the materiality is directly informed by the spectacular coastal sandstone formations and the native landscape.

 The site is structured around a central courtyard, an ocean terrace and a grid of public domain connections linking to the coast and nearby Freshwater. The design conceals much of the program within the contour of the land to control visual impact with the seniors living village organised around the central courtyard, and the club and associated public facilities located beneath connecting to the ocean terrace.

For the residents, the apartment interiors are designed with flexi-rooms to accommodate changing needs as well as outdoor rooms to maximise opportunities to engage with the headland environment.Operable glazing and screens allow residents to mediate sun and wind and to control connection to the public domain. Public pathways connect to the coast while open stairs connect residents to the public facilities to promote asocial and active lifestyle. The outcome is a diverse set of facilities nestled gently into one of Sydney's great coastal headlands and cleverly arranged to amplify the health, social and lifestyle benefits of coexistence, and a place where seniors can expect to live a longer, healthier life.

The Carrington Parade and Evans Street edges respond to their streetscapes presenting as a collection of domestic scaled buildings. The Carrington Parade edge being stepped for views to Curl Curl. To the north, the fine-grained qualities of the streets give way to a larger scale response to the headland setting.

The natural landscape is drawn across the development to amplify the scenic quality of the headland while taller feature buildings sit above as sculptural counterpoints with owing forms that frame coastal views from within. A dramatic sunken ‘Palm Gully’ at the centre of the development brings light and air to the below ground public facilities and then a civic scaled veranda merged into the contour of the headland frames the aspect from the public areas to the ocean terrace and coast beyond. The project carries forward the idea of remembrance through its use of sandstone with its warm illuminance at night, and with the integration of Jade Oakley’s sculpture at the club entry depicting the original diggers at their seaside location.Collectively, the topography, the native landscape, the materiality and sculptural built-form, combine to make a memorable composition that brings new identity to this long standing community institution.

Project partners

Clinton Weaver, Tom Evangelidis, Grant Leslie, Brett Boardman, Ubird, Simon Whitbread, Katherine Lu (interiors)


2021 NSW AIA, Award for Residential, Multiple Housing

2021 NSW AIA, Award for Urban Design

2018 The Urban Developer Award, Mixed Use category – Winner

Harbord Diggers

Project partners