Open Floorplans Are FlawedThe open-plan living programme has been the epitome of modern residential design for almost as long as the mortal memory of current generations can remember. About as long as the kitchen has been favoured as the heart of the modern home, in fact. This was all well and good while families spent the majority of their days living busy lives out and about – at work, school, socialising and the like – reconvening at home in the evenings only to debrief and rest. Open-plan living areas lent themselves aptly to this way of life. With kitchen, living and dining programmes melded into one, cohesive space, the shift toward such a layout enabled families to make the most of the precious little time spent with one another at home – cooking, eating, working, studying, and unwinding together, all at once. How times have changed. “Different aspects of my house have suddenly become so much more important,” Shannon Peach says, echoing what many of us have been thinking. Shannon was dialling into the Habitus Webinar from his dining room – a room in his home he notes was previously devoid of purpose and rarely entered. These days it has a new lease on life as a mini-Milieu operating from within the home of Shannon and his young family. The sudden relocation of our outside lives unto our home environments has highlighted several flaws in open-plan arrangements, and the general consensus amongst the experts was that a renaissance of traditional spatial arrangements is on the cards for residential design.
Distinct Spaces With Diverse UsesRob Mills’ prediction is that residential layouts will evolve into a hybrid of open-plan and traditional arrangements – and he says so with the conviction of an architect who is already encountering such notions in practice. With the populous heralding a newfound appreciation for acoustic and visual boundaries within a space, fellow panel members, Brent, Michelle and Shannon echoed signs of a shift in the direction of more defined spaces. In fact, open-plan living was showing signs of going out of vogue even pre-pandemic, as astutely acknowledged by Michelle. "Living in open-plan layouts has already seen us reconsider the design of service spaces out of desire to tuck them away," she says, referencing the rise of the butler's pantry seen in recent years as a case in point. However, there is an important twist: “spaces don’t need to be assigned a programme – they can be assigned properties,” says Michelle. Flexible use spaces have already become increasingly pertinent in modern houses and apartments, however they are typically synonymous with packing maximum plausible functionality into small footprint spaces. That said, Michelle raises a strong point: “Homes are places to live, not just places to function,” proposing that, as houses move away from open-plan layouts, newly integrated defined spaces ought not to be designed for specific use cases per se, rather according to attributes that transcend function, such as seasonality and mood.
Liveability And The Nature Of Healthy HomesProgramme is not the only facet of modern residential design to have come under the microscope thanks to the events of COVID-19. Experiencing such prolonged time within the confines of our houses is bringing to public attention the health properties of the environments we call home – an awareness only magnified in the current social climate of global pandemic. Not only are we considering the health properties of building materials and the cleanliness of surfaces in a new light, we are also noticing how the liveability of residential spaces is at the whim of solar energy as it ebb and flows throughout the day and in tune with the seasons, Shannon highlights. Evidently this is not the first-time such insight into design for liveability has been derived from a global-scale health crisis. We have the tuberculosis epidemic of the early twentieth century to thank for the biophilic design sensibilities of modernist residences, as Michelle brought to the attention of the panel. A century on from their ideological debut, socialised by way of the modernist movement, notions such as biophilia, passive solar design and climate-responsive design have only recently become embedded in the collective conscience as priorities for the residential design and construction. Now, their impact on the liveability of our built environment is more relatable than ever. Familiar theorems aside, what new enhancements might COVID-19 inspire for the design of healthy habitats? Rob and Michelle both intuit a heightened concern surrounding the mitigation of pollutants in the home – coming from both without and within. Rob envisages the adoption of Japanese-esque rituals in which we more mindfully transition between home and the world outdoors, implementing time and space to shed outwear before interacting with the home. Meanwhile, a rise in awareness of and concern about electromagnetic radiation within our homes is Michelle’s projection, highlighting a need to embed diverse opportunities to ‘switch off’ in residential design. Featured image: A U-Shaped Room, Atelier tao+c. Photography by Tian Fangfang. We think you might also like to read Virtual Collaboration, In Realityabc
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Two monumental wooden doors open the living spaces up to the garden.Taking cues from the site’s unique shape, Fabian projected the new volume of Bewboc House parallel to the oblique boundary, resulting in a distinguished break between old and new – in more ways than one. Best described as a modern-day suburban cave, the concrete addition to Bewboc House takes the shape of a vaulted annex. Cavernous in both appearance and atmosphere, the floor to ceiling concrete finish brings a sense of calm and continuity to the living spaces within. Meanwhile, two monumental wooden doors open the living spaces up to the garden, granting the kind of uninterrupted perspective that immediately connects indoors with out. The upper floor spaces have been layered to form a hierarchy, allowing views in-between floors and straight through the vaulted space; the study overlooks the living spaces and a step-up lounging platform adjacent, while a bedroom overlooks the study and beyond.
Best described as a modern-day suburban cave, the concrete addition to Bewboc House takes the shape of a vaulted annex.Domed apertures take the edge of the concrete building form and welcome natural light deep into the dwelling. “The clients say that what they love is the subtle and interesting ways in which light comes through the openings,” says Fabian. “The annex faces south, so the morning sun streams into the living spaces, but the corner garden is cool in the evenings so they enjoy lounging at the patio opposite the kitchen and enjoying the view toward the garden.” In the wake of Bewboc House’s completion, Fabian has happened across revelations of his own. “While I selected the vaulted annex form for functional purposes, it occurred to me later that I may have been trying to unconsciously design the space as a cave,” he muses, “a primal form that we can relate to but revised in a modern interpretation.” Fabian Tan Architect fabian-tan.com Photography by Ceavs Chua We think you might also like Knikno House by Fabian Tan
“The clients say they love the subtle and interesting ways in which light comes through the openings.”abc
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Downie North retained the original bedrooms in the front, added to the rear, and separated the old and new with a small courtyard that is pivotal to the design. “The courtyard is a key design manoeuvre that elegantly solves a number of design issues,” says Catherine. “It provides breathing between the old and new with a thin throat connecting the two. It brings natural light and ventilation into the front and rear interiors, enabling passive cooling and illumination.” It also eliminates the need for large openings to the south, which would compromise privacy and promote heat loss in winter. The stairwell provides a double-height space next to the courtyard, with east-facing glass louvres opening to prevailing breezes and drenching the kitchen and dining area with morning light. The living area is stepped down from the kitchen and dining area, where it flows out to the west-facing backyard.
Downie North retained the original bedrooms in the front, added to the rear, and separated the old and new with a small courtyard that is pivotal to the design.
Downie North streamlined the interior to enhance the sense of space on the narrow site. The kitchen joinery extends along one wall with the kitchen island and dining table in the centre of the room, and the simple, neutral and robust palette provides a calm and soothing backdrop for the family’s active, busy lives. “We used inexpensive materials, simple construction detailing and expressed certain elements to create depth and texture,” Catherine explains. The painted LVLs give greater height above the kitchen and dining area, and lighter filtering through the timber battens of the stairwell create a play of shadow and light. Skylights bring natural light into the bathrooms while maintaining privacy, which is not always afforded in tight urban settings. There is also an element of playfulness throughout, with the bathroom floors and walls clad in surf-coloured tiles, which give the house its Surfbox name. Downie North Architects downienorth.com Photography by Katherine Lu Dissection Information 130mm Blackbutt Solid timber flooring Vogue tiles by Classic Ceramics Caesarstone Fresh Concrete benchtop Custom blackbutt batten balustrade PH5 pendant by Louis Poulsen Caroma Liano Nexus bathroom range We think you might also like Woollahra House by Nobbs Radford Architects abc
“The courtyard brings natural light and ventilation into the front and rear interiors, enabling passive cooling and illumination.”
The strategy sounds simple enough, but at work behind this relaxed, comfortable atmosphere is a set of precise specifications – an optimal 30-centimetre rise of the coffee table top measured from the seat on the floor, a 35-centimetre profile in the door frames, a 90-centimetre distance for people sitting across at dinner. Ethan even noted how the houseplants on the terrace were picked to match the foliage of the treescape outside. Every inch of the home has its raison d’être. Of the Grandemare sofa from Flexform, Ethan says, “The sofa is 1.1-metres-deep and it is quite unusual, but it aligns with the idea of the house the clients want. This is not a big landed house where you have guest areas and a home theatre room so we want this space to have quite a strong loungey feel to it. That’s why I chose a deep sofa.
A trio of Lenticchia from Viabizzuno suspend as luminous discs over the grain of the dining table, which is framed by six Ton 30 chairs.
“Friends can sit around, have a potluck here, or a child can do homework,” he adds. The low coffee table, made out of solid ash by local artisan Maker and Wolves, was sanded and torched in traditional Yakisugi technique. Grains appear and are carbonised to deep black, with the most wonderful blue-purple undertones that contrast the paler shades in immediate neighbours of sofa and braided rug. Ethan also selected design classics, masterpieces by Philipp Mainzer, Isamu Noguchi, Charlotte Perriand, and Peter Zumthor that each offer themselves quietly around the house. A trio of Lenticchia from light maker Viabizzuno suspend as luminous discs over the grain of the dining table, which is framed by six Ton no 30 Armchairs. The entire composition, back dropped by the monolithic stone island of the kitchen, is set at an angle, following the slant of the wall.
Behind this relaxed, comfortable atmosphere is a set of precise specifications.
Ethan has a keen understanding of every weave, grain, and striation in the home. Of the light-diffusing glass pendants created by Zumthor, he tells me, “He frosted it both inside and outside so they have quite a soft glow.” Such insights make the fact that this is the debut project of a studio with a young designer at helm all the more impressive. TE-EL te-el.org Photography by Studio Periphery We think you might also like this Design Hunter profile on Ethan Lin of TE-EL abc
TE-EL has put textures and patterns, both natural and designed, to work with controlled proportions, achieving composed, tactile and intimate mise en scenes.
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Walan Brisbane takes its name from the nearby ferry stop and much of its character from the colours and fissures of the cliffs that line the river at this point. “It led to an almost abstract way in which the building expresses itself. We drew directly from the colour and the pattern of the cliff faces to inform the skin,” syas Liam. The character of the cliffs also drove the multi-coloured aluminium screens (or brise soleil) that form a second skin to the building. Walan is a fully glass-skinned building oriented towards the west. So, in Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate and with a brief to optimise the views west over the river to the city, the screens serve to mediate the heat of the western sun while maintaining views and at the same time ensuring privacy. The screens also suggested the idea of “Queenslanders in the sky” because like those characteristic Brisbane houses raised up from the ground with their verandahs and patterned timber screens, these apartments are layered with the interstitial space between the interiors and the façade screens forming a genuine verandah rather than a mere terrace.
Walan Brisbane takes its name from the nearby ferry stop and much of its character from the colours and fissures of the cliffs that line the river.
The 14-storey building has just one apartment per floor, each serviced by a secure lift that opens on to a lobby providing an additional layer of security. Two hallways run down either side the lift core creating internal connectivity, but also drawing light and views into the whole apartment both down the length of the plan and across the plan. The master bedroom enjoys the prime location for views and this, says Liam, drove the internal planning. The apartments run out at 300-square-metres and are pitched towards people who are downsizing from houses. So, it is an option, says Liam, “to move from your house into a housing development that happens to be apartments”. It is not just about storage and size, but also about identity and quality of life. And quality, says Liam, means “the quality of your environment – the site that you are living on and the location – but also the quality of the space that you are living in”. While these apartments may be high-end, this is an issue that goes to the heart of matters in this era of densification because, if people are being asked to make an apartment their home (as distinct from a quarter acre block with front and back gardens), then it needs somehow to offer the amenity of a home. Part of that amenity is a sense of community and one of the intriguing aspects of Walan Brisbane is the incorporation of the Scott Street Flats (c.1925), one of only two surviving buildings by Elina Mottram, Queensland’s first registered female architect. This building now serves as a common facility (pool, gym, library) for the Walan residents, but is also – like the screening – a gesture towards continuity and the historic character of the area. bureau^proberts bureauproberts.com.au Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones We think you might also like this expose on emerging housing typologies abc
Exterior screens serve to mediate the heat of the western sun while maintaining views and at the same time ensuring privacy.