They are the winners of the Houses Awards and they allow us to discover the best in class when it comes to architects meeting the challenges of creating a home in contemporary Australia.
The winner of 7th Australian House of the year was a modest house from Queensland which impressed the judges with the architect’s thoughtfulness and innovation on a relatively limited budget. Another incredible project was created in response to a client suffering from chronic insomnia.
Here are the winners.
Winning House of the Year for 2017 was Auchenflower House by Vokes and Peters – a sophisticated and considered suburban home that proves a modest budget does not limit innovation.
Judge’s verdict: The architects’ siting strategy explores the potential of quiet suburban spaces. The building forms, scale, plans, details, composition and sections acknowledge the suburban street-corner relationship, making beautiful connections with the carefully observed conditions of the site.
Auchenflower House offers an inventive model for working with traditional housing on suburban blocks and provides an intelligent and poetic paradigm for current practice.
Judge’s Verdict: Balnarring Retreat is a humble, hardworking dwelling that offers flexibility in use through cleverly crafted, simple, low-tech operable systems. Whether used as a studio or private residence, it is a place to slow down and retreat from the frantic pace of contemporary life.
The honest materiality creates a simple palette, strengthening the dwelling’s connection with the surrounding native landscape. The jury was taken with the idea that this compact and efficient building could be easily adapted to suit multiple and varied locations – a prototype for considered, easy-to-construct and affordable homes. This little retreat reminds us that you don’t need much space or technology to enjoy the pleasures of life.
Judge’s Verdict: An abstract object sits embedded in the landscape – a long, highly textured wall wrapping three black timber pavilions and enclosing five courtyards. The structures offer shelter from the at-times harsh climate, as well as views over the extraordinary landscape and coastline to the east.
The textured brick wall, with its carefully curated mortar jointing, anchors the building to the site. Its earthen materiality is attuned to the landscape, mediating between screening a busy road to the west and opening up to the view.
The planning of the house into three discrete pavilions separated by courtyards allows for the entry of northern light along its length, and for the incremental shutting down or opening up of the house to suit either its owners – an elderly couple – or larger family gatherings.
Judge’s Verdict: The addition of two new pavilions, one to the north and one to the south, has skilfully transformed an existing single-storey bungalow. The pavilions are slightly separated from the original to allow light and ventilation into the home, while enabling the introduction of gardens into these interstitial spaces.
The main living space links all three structures, forming significant outdoor rooms to both the north and south, with the transition from inside to outside barely perceptible. This ambiguity between interior and exterior spaces significantly contributes to the liveability of the house.
The gifting of the front garden to the street challenges the arrangement of carports and front fences typical of the area. The garage door is almost imperceptible, aided by the use of tyre tracks instead of a full concrete driveway, further integrating the house and landscape.
The use of standard materials and domestic construction gives a subtle nod to the long-lost beach shacks of the Gold Coast.
Judge’s Verdict: This alteration and addition by Vokes and Peters, to a modest timber cottage in Brisbane’s Auchenflower, is as much about what hasn’t been done as what has been done to the original home. The architectural language is derived from a celebration of the existing structure and the suburban context in which it sits.
The house has been reorientated to the garden, with large openings at the rear of the house and a new sitting area overlooking the backyard. Internally, social connections are promoted by the design of interconnected living spaces that also allow for casual adult supervision of the children.
Judge’s Verdict: This new pavilion structure provides a main bedroom suite to an existing dwelling, with an atmospheric palette of raw materials designed to reflect the mood of the functions of the space.
The pavilion was designed with minimal artificial lighting to create a “natural atmosphere” in which to relax and unwind. This is a calm and intimate environment with varying layers of privacy and a careful connection to the landscape.
The refined building envelope sits delicately within the landscape, combining charcoal rammed earth and the reflective quality of large panels of glass to connect the structure with its surrounds.
The pavilion is exquisitely detailed and so is the transition between the existing house and the new structure. This is a precious gem of a building that has clearly been conceived with a passion for the manipulation of raw materials and their impact on the surrounding environment.
Judge’s Verdict: Both Ekuan Kenji’s radical 1962 Capsule House and Kurokawa Kisho’s socially optimistic 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower define one of the few moments in the history of architecture that gave rise to a typology that highlights how little the house and apartment typology has changed.
To misinterpret the historic architectural quotations in this project as “scenographic” or “nostalgic” would be a mistake. It is timely for architects to engage with history and ideas that might provide a springboard for future thinking.
With a floor area of twenty-seven square metres, this lean project is an acknowledgement of the creativity of the Japanese Metabolism movement. More importantly, it is a contemporary example that develops a spatially rich infill, adaptive re-use and multiple housing project as paradigm.
The jury lauds the design principles of the project and its assumed Loosian approach, where “form is fit for purpose.” This work is manifestly founded on passion and intelligence in architecture.
Judge’s Verdict: The house in Dulwich Hill by Panov Scott was unanimously selected as the winner of the heritage category.
In this wonderful project, the key criterion of delivering an excellent design outcome within a heritage context is achieved many times over, from initial concept to completion. Of great interest is the manner in which the designers have insightfully demonstrated their ability to identify, understand and articulate what they believe to be the critical heritage aspects of the site, but without statutory controls or guidelines present for those elements. In turn, they have used these elements to underpin a very “real” project in response to a client brief.
By adding a beautifully configured, two-storey companion building to the rear of the existing four-room 1907 brick row house (one of seven), the architects have skilfully crafted architecture that is intimately integrated with the site, the heritage origins and the immediate landscape, enriched as it is by an impressive jacaranda tree.
Judge’s Verdict: In this modest but ambitious project, the architect has used a light touch to maintain and enhance a house already well loved by its owners. A series of courtyard gardens is integral to and indivisible from the interior, with each room in the house opening to or overlooking a densely planted external space.
Lightweight pergolas provide shade and privacy from overlooking to the rear courtyard, while the hit-and-miss recycled brick screen wall around the first-floor bathroom courtyard provides privacy, shade, cooling and outlook. The re-use of salvaged bricks from the demolition of the original rear wing, for both paving and new walls, provides a robust and maintenance-free structure intended to be completely absorbed by the lush and dense planting over time. It is a delightful and sustainable outdoor space.
Judge’s Verdict: When working in remote locations, designing sustainably is almost unavoidable. Adding to this, the clients of the Fish Creek House are committed to a lifestyle that has low environmental impact, and this was the starting point of their brief to Edition Office.
The new home responds to the harsh climatic conditions of Victoria’s Gippsland region.
The breaking down of the plan into pavilions allows northern light to penetrate deep into the home via a series of courtyards. This also allows the concrete slab to be passively heated. To avoid using excess energy, the guest bedrooms in the southernmost pavilions can be closed off from the rest of the house when not in use.
The slab is hydronically heated via the kitchen’s wood-fired oven/stove, which also boosts the home’s solar hot-water system. Rainwater is caught and stored on site, all waste is treated on site with a worm farm composting system, all materials specified are low-VOC, and a 7 kW solar photovoltaic system is incorporated into the roof of the shed to supply the house with on-site power.
Judge’s Verdict: The idea of “sustainability” reaches beyond environmental responsiveness into the realm of social sustainability. This relates to a project’s ability to acutely meet the needs of its clients, but also to the way that a design might provide the framework for new models of housing that could benefit a broader group of potential clients in similar circumstances.
In the case of the Garden Pavilion by BLOXAS, an individual’s sleep condition is addressed without compromising the clients’ desire for a highly activated, social environment. Collaborating closely with the client and other consultants, BLOXAS has initiated extensive research and investigation to understand how the design of a home might improve quality of life for someone who suffers chronically. Requirements regarding acoustics, isolation and other specific needs are catered for within a delightful garden pavilion that belies its complexity.
Although this house is designed to suit a specific client, it belongs within a broader conversation and investigation relating to the way architects can improve living conditions for people with disabilities, chronic illness or other challenges that affect day-to-day life. Considered as a “live project,” Garden Pavilion will be monitored by the client and architect on an ongoing basis.
Judge’s Verdict: Established in 2013 by architect Matthew Eagle, ME is a practice that is pushing boundaries and reconsidering the suburban status quo on the Gold Coast.
ME’s growing suite of sensitively contextual residential projects embraces the coastal way of life and climate. The practice delightfully engages with the beachside vernacular and celebrates ordinary materials and products to create contemporary homes that are playful, liveable and affordable.
ME’s residential work not only aims to enhance the daily lives of each home’s occupants, it also strives to give back to the relevant neighbourhood character.
For Matthew, research is an important aspect to design and alongside running his practice, he is an assistant professor at the Abedian School of Architecture at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
Is it clear that, along with his clients and consultants, Matthew Eagle is making his mark on the Gold Coast with considered, cost-effective and climatically responsive residential architecture.
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