2013 National Architecture Awards: Residential – Houses

(–) Glass House by Charles Wright Architects Residential Architecture – Houses: National Commendation Australian Institute of Architects

Jury citation

The (-) Glass House is a highly innovative architectural response to climate and lifestyle, and a demonstration of an alternative for tropical climates. A respectful “fit” in the suburban context, it is clearly contemporary but its radical nature is not obvious from the street. Robust in scale and proportion, the simplicity of its facade belies its careful organization to achieve privacy and a sense of seclusion in a very open house. An important reconceptualization of the house for the tropics, it is a cluster of functional spaces and elements with varying degrees of enclosure, distributed in a sheltered but unenclosed field.This is opposed to the traditional house as a compartmentalized singular object defined by a hard indoor–outdoor perimeter. Drawn from and with playful reference to Philip Johnson’s Glass House, this project subverts that icon – a highly technological but unsustainable model – to offer a sustainable model in the Australian context.

The design involves a fascinating play on inside–outside and notions of boundary – where the strongest perceived boundary is really the unglazed/un-walled edge of the mass floor where it steps down to lawn and garden, where private bedrooms face outward, and where what is often considered the heart of home, the kitchen, is completely open to the air. In the same breath, this house is fully wheelchair accessible and has achieved a high level of security. This is an example of great design – where the spatial and organizational architectural idea is also the sustainable idea, akin to the best traditional and vernacular architecture where lifestyle and shelter have evolved into a cohesive whole for the climate.

Read the project review by Shaneen Fantin for Houses.

Products and materials

Lysaght Klip-Lok roof decking in Colorbond ‘Surfmist’.
External and internal walls
Tableland Concrete Blocks concrete masonry, stack bonded with raked joints; Cairns Steel Fabricators structural steel in Dulux Weathermax HBR finish.
Capral 900 Series sliding doors and 419 Flushline windows in anodized black.
Custom solid-core doors in Wattyl Estapol satin finish.
Hanson exposed concrete, polished.
LED lights.
Custom concrete benchtops, polished; Highland cooktop; Delonghi oven; Miele dishwasher.
Custom concrete benchtops; Reece fittings.
Heating and cooling
Daikin inverter ceiling-mounted airconditioner.


Charles Wright Architects
Port Douglas, Qld, Australia
Project Team
Charles Wright, Justine Wright, Katja Tsychkova, Richard Blight
Builder La Spina Homes
Cost consultant Davis Langdon
Engineer G & A Consultants
Hydraulic consultant Gilboy Hydraulic Solutions
Landscaping Owner
Site Details
Location Cairns,  Qld,  Australia
Site type Suburban
Site area 1522 m2
Building area 375 m2
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 6 months
Construction 12 months
Category Residential
Type New houses



Published online: 7 Nov 2013
Words: National Architecture Awards Jury 2013
Images: Patrick Bingham-Hall


Architecture Australia, November 2013

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