Small House

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Small House by Domenic Alvaro.

Small House by Domenic Alvaro. Image: Trevor Mein

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Small House by Domenic Alvaro.

Small House by Domenic Alvaro. Image: Trevor Mein

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Small House by Domenic Alvaro won the National Award for Small Project Architecture at the 2011 National Architecture Awards.

The Small House in Surry Hills provides a maximum experience out of a minimum site. A simple construction technique, that of large precast concrete panels stacked on a floor-by-floor basis, has been employed to create a flowing series of spaces, which seem to spiral upward to more and more open living activities, finally culminating in a delightful and unexpected rooftop garden.

One could not have expected this result from seeing the site prior to construction, when it could just fit two cars squeezed in from a laneway. Robust materiality and scale have successfully transformed this site into a spacious living environment. A building with such small floor plates could also be expected to have small rooms, but this project creates a sense of expansive space through the use of large plate glass windows and by effectively floating storage and kitchen elements within the larger floor plan.

The successful execution of a project such as this requires close collaboration between builder and designer to ensure that a spatial experience can essentially be made out of the construction techniques used. Large-scale precast concrete panels set both the architectural quality of the finished rooms and their spatial limits. The introduction of other materials is limited, thus keeping a sense of robust scale rare in such a small structure.

The project offers potential as a new paradigm for the tight infill spaces that can be found throughout the inner ring of Australian cities and its impact will be felt far beyond the tight confines of its Surry Hills site.

– Jury citation

Gavin51094: When you bought the land, were you confident that council would allow you to build something so quirky?

Dom & Sue: I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get away with it but I knew it was adjacent to a 10-storey building and that we lie on the southern side of it so I don’t overlook anyone, so I was confident it would be okay. 

– Grand Designs Australia episode 2, web chat transcript.

See Small House by Domenic Alvaro for a full review of the project.

For a full list of awarded projects see 2011 National Architecture Awards – the winners and for more awards discussion see Rachel Hurst and Rory Hyde’s responses to the awards and the jury overview by Karl Fender.

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