Architects are in a position to push boundaries and question the status quo in relation to how we live. Challenging accepted norms and design formulas may lead to happier individual occupants, but it can also benefit the wider community. This is especially relevant within a suburban context, where there is an established formula embedded in our culture. Australian modernist architect Robin Boyd strove to shift these perceptions in the 1960s with his book The Australian Ugliness and his establishment of The Age Small Homes Service. Although this was primarily about aesthetics, Boyd was also highlighting the need to question how things are done.
The challenges proposed by architects aren’t always at a large scale, but nevertheless they have an impact of some degree. On the Gold Coast, Burleigh Street House by ME (seen on this issue’s cover) challenges the typical carport and fence arrangement with a concealed and internalized carport space. The result is a highly graphic and bold facade that lifts the mood of the street. In addition, the house is built out almost to the boundary on this elevation – challenging the local council’s setback rules in order to create a buffer zone from the busy corner. The architect has also suggested other ways to improve the street for locals, including planting trees along the footpath.
Two projects in this issue use materials and construction techniques that aren’t common for residential projects – one home in a suburban context and one in an inviting landscape setting. On a rear extension to the Hiro-En House by Matt Gibson Architecture and Design, a two-storey-high fine stainless steel mesh fabric slides across the edge of the timber deck to protect the living areas from the harsh western sun. This curtain dissolves the harsh boundaries of the house and allows for a protected transitional zone. The Tent House by Sparks Architects (page 58) also uses a fabric, but as a layer of the roof structure. Progressing ideas about climate-responsive architecture, this new home genuinely connects its occupants with its site and allows them to live in accordance with the seasons.
The Garden Pavilion by BLOXAS shows how a house can be designed to meet the specific needs of someone suffering from an illness or disorder. In this case, the home is designed to alleviate some of the challenges associated with insomnia. This type of project will hopefully lead to similar architectural solutions for others who might be facing similar issues.
This issue explores just some of the ways that architects are pushing boundaries – and why it is so important that they do.
Katelin Butler, editor