Uniting Communities’ U City – a vertical village

  • 2020

  • Social Impact

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Uniting Communities

Designed In:


Uniting Communities’ U City development is a truly unique, inclusive and diverse ‘vertical village’ in the heart of the Adelaide CBD. This world-first, radical mixed-use development brings together retirement living, specialist short and long stay disability apartments, function centre, commercial, retail and hospitality outlets, and social services suites.

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Image: Trevor Mein
Image: Trevor Mein
Image: Trevor Mein
Image: Trevor Mein
Image: Peter Barnes
Image: Peter Barnes
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  • This world-first, radical mixed-use development tells a compelling story about the way communities can – and should be – created, as ‘united’ communities, bringing together what might architecturally be considered incompatible uses into its 20 levels. With accessibility and sustainability front of mind, U City has been designed to respond to the needs of the community. It embodies Uniting Communities' key values of diversity and inclusiveness, considering how space can best be used to develop a strong community where people of all ages and abilities can flourish and live their best lives.

  • The $100 million 20-storey ‘vertical village’ came to life through combining distinct functional elements into one integrated, inclusive and connected community. A range of community gathering and interaction spaces for the U City’s unique mix of residents, staff, visitors, clients, guests and the public has been woven into the design to facilitate integration and interaction. In addition to the unconventional mix of unique neighbourhoods within the one development, Uniting Communities also set the challenge to exceed accessible design standards and reach Liveable Housing gold standard for retirement living and short-term disability accommodation, and platinum standard for long term disability accommodation.

  • The design of U City in many ways defies the odds as to what a non-profit social services organisation should be, both in terms of its commercial model and its physical form. Uniting Communities has boldly delivered a re-imagined 'welfare centre' with its design impact deliberate in integrating and celebrating diversity in community. True to its organisational vision, people thrive when communities are strong. U City continues to demonstrate such strength as its community not only evolves, but flourishes.

  • Uniting Communities continues its commitment to environmental sustainability through the U City development. The organisation's environmental accolades now extend beyond being South Australia's first certified carbon neutral organisation and Australia’s first charity to be classified as carbon neutral, to U City achieving SA's ‘greenest’ building design to date and a 6 Star Green Star design rating. It has been designed to use 45% less energy and 30% less water than a comparable new building, with features including shading to reduce heat load, sensor-controlled LED lighting that adjusts to natural light available, an embedded electricity network, gas-boosted solar hot water, water-efficient fixtures and fittings, and sustainable transport options including end-of-trip facilities and provision for electric-vehicle charging stations. Ninety-six per cent of materials from the previous structure on the site were recycled, and the building comprises recycled reinforced steel. To maximise the independence of residents and guests living with disability, U City is equipped with state-of-the-art assistive technology, allowing automation controls of features such as lights, window coverings, air-conditioning and doors from a mobile device. Kitchen benches, ensuite sinks and some furniture are height adjustable through electronic or manual control to allow flexibility of use.