Tír na nÓg by Drew Heath Architects
Residential Architecture – Houses: National Award
Australian Institute of Architects
This house is inspiring and invigorating – brimming with verve, inventiveness and intelligence. Part of a delightful ongoing experiment in hands-on placemaking, it gloriously illustrates the possibilities of designing to a specific, personal lifestyle and philosophy, rather than to any generic expectation. Made by and for the architect and his family, the house has evolved as a series of spaces in dialogue with an existing cottage and responds to its steep, inner-urban site and climate. Spatially, the design is rich and layered, with particular exuberance in the vertical changes and unexpected shifts from interior to exterior. These layers afford openness and views across semi-enclosed spaces, and create rooms that are open to the weather while completely private. The central courtyard is the key to the work – the dynamic space around which all others spin, in both section and plan. The integration of landscape and planting is fundamental to this layering and its success.
The house takes the self-built Sydney “nuts and berries” bush house into the dense inner city and folds it inwards, over and under, with interesting results. It is full of intriguing details, solving problems and revealing opportunities that add to its character as a house able to be subtly tuned and controlled. With the new structure and the “working parts” exposed, it is incredibly rich, playful and resourceful in detail, both highly serious and also casually irreverent. The house has many moments of triumph, as well as experimental flaws, with a wonderful predominance of ingenious innovation. It is self-consciously provocative – every element too small, too big, too exposed, too narrow, too steep, too complicated, too simple – and through honesty and vigour it reveals important information that opens up design possibilities and challenges conventions within the culture, for making and living in architecture.