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The First Word From Habitus #49

For the past three years, the Habitus team has pulled together a collection of 20 diverse and wide-ranging residential projects dotted throughout the Indo-Pacific Region for the annual Habitus House of the Year special edition. We’ve looked at all sorts of typologies, from alterations and additions to new builds; compact inner city dwellings to rural homes in sprawling landscapes; full time residences to holidays homes; and briefs from families that are expecting to grow, disperse, age in place or house multiple generations. But there are a few key elements that each and every project we’ve selected has in common. One is a genuine connection to the land on which the building sits. Another is that the architects have clearly understood and responded to their clients’ brief and unique way of life. In addition, while social, economic and environmental sustainability is typically taken into account, it is still worth celebrating when the solutions are innovative and imaginative. These core attributes form the basis of the judging criteria for our jury of independent experts who come together to select which projects will receive Habitus House of the Year awards and commendations to be announced later in the year. And who will you choose for the Habitus House of the Year People’s Choice award? Head to habitusliving.com/houseoftheyear for exclusive online content to help further inform your decision. Submit your vote online to enter the draw to win the Ultimate Design Hunter Package. Holly Cunneen Editor Ruckers Hilly House by Studio Bright. Photography by Rory Gardiner   Habitus would like to acknowledge the support of our Major Partners for 2020: Gaggenau, StylecraftHOME and Zip; and our Supporting Partner: Rocks On. Our Trophy Partner, Axolotl, and our Design Hunter Partners: About Space, Didier, Euroluce, Phoenix Tapware, The Green Room, Savage Design, Stylecraft and Top3 By Design.abc
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Chasing A Better Outlook

Architect Nick Bell’s recount of the alterations and additions project dubbed Balmain House is truly evocative of a jigsaw puzzle. The relocation of one seemingly innocuous but essential element – the stair – saw everything else suddenly fall into place. His clients were living in weatherboard cottage in the desirable, harbour side suburb of Birchgrove in Sydney. Their home had not only a second storey addition circa 1980, but also a lean-to addition to the rear that held the primary living spaces. Despite these two rounds of retrofitted additions, the residence left much to be desired. It was dark from a deep plan, low ceilings and many internal rooms; ill planned (the eastern outlook that boasted views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was impeded by a staircase); and despite a relatively large site for an inner city suburb, external living spaces were small and pokey.  

Although the lean-to was removed and replaced, the concrete slab was retained and the form of the new roof pays homage to its previous iteration.

  Needless to say the brief was comprehensive. The clients wanted to replace the lean-to and extend the second-storey addition to the south-west boundary of the site. They also wanted better opportunities for outdoor living – including a small courtyard on the northern side – and an internal reconfiguration of the floor plan. Relocating the stair to the new side addition was key to Nick’s design solution. It freed space from the original plans to give over to a new fourth bedroom and separate laundry room downstairs. This move also meant there was room enough for a double study on the half landing of the staircase. Upstairs a new geometric floor plate creates interest programmatically and highlights the views – uninterrupted.  

A new L-shaped plan gently demarcates the kitchen, dining and living zones, making them easier to furnish but also define.

  Although the lean-to was removed and replaced, the concrete slab was retained and the form of the new roof pays homage to its previous iteration. “Part of the roof follows the traditional form sloping down from front to back whilst the other main section of roof slopes up from front to rear,” says Nick. “Joining these two main roof planes is a third triangular transitional plane. This transitional plane is a large skylight orientated to draw in natural light from the north.” Internally, a new L-shaped plan gently demarcates the kitchen, dining and living zones, making them easier to furnish but also define. The rear glass sliding doors are fully glazed with a minimal frame, this serves to enhance the connection between internal and external spaces, as well as encourage natural light in (complementing the sunlight sourced through the skylight). The concrete slab continues outside to enhance the sense of life indoors spilling outwards. Nick Bell Architects nickbellarchitects.com Photography by Tom Ferguson We think you might also like Bronte House by Nick Bell Architects abc
House Of The Year 2020

Binary Wood House

Responding to place is not just a sentimental exercise. It brings all kinds of benefits: to the existing environment but also to the people who will live there. Overall, it brings a sense of unity and a feeling of belonging. Too often the built environment brings alienation, but a home that responds to its place provides existential security. Place consists of many things – landscape, flora and fauna, existing buildings and structures, the people who live there, and history. Place-responsive architecture takes all of these things into account, along with the character and needs of the people whose home this will be. This house in the north-eastern Thai province of Pak Chong is for a Bangkok-based family of five. Originally it was to be a holiday rental home, but instead became a second home to the family and potentially a home to retire to for the parents. The family wanted space, but they also wanted to respect the environment by minimising the impact of the new house on the landscape. Hence the house, on a site area of 600 square metres and set amongst verdant rolling hills, is oriented on a north-south axis, thus avoiding a forest of established Phayung trees (Siamese Rosewood) which instead now offer shade to the new house from the western sun. This decision formed part of an over-arching sustainability agenda to “touch the earth lightly”. An aspect of this was the way in which the architects used the traditional Korat House from Nakhon Ratchasima Province as an inspiration and a guide. The Korat House is a family of spaces within a single storey wooden structure, with a raised platform and light gable roof. It is a pre-fabricated structure using a modular wall system. The gable roof has gone, but the Binary Wood House is raised slightly off the ground, leaving the earth untouched and allowing life to go on underneath the house. It is a timber house using sustainably harvested timber – 80 per cent of it recycled – re-worked by local craftsmen. Locally sourced materials prepared by local craftsmen is environmentally sustainable, but also helps sustain local crafts and reduce the need to transport materials to site. The architects also borrowed the strategy of using modular, pre-fabricated timber systems, resulting in a structure that retains the aesthetic appeal of the timber façade of the Korat House, but in a very lightweight form. In fact, the house seems almost to de-materialise without any sense of imposing itself on the landscape. But this is no exercise in pastiche. It is part of a clever strategy to optimise the space provided without dominating the landscape. This is also the origin of the house’s name. For each of the spatial modules (3.4 metres in length, width and height), the architects designed in a binary identity: unoccupied/open space and occupied/enclosed space. This means the house has a very fluid programme. Life in the house is not pre-determined by functionally specific spaces. Some, like the bedrooms and kitchen/dining are, but other spaces can be what anyone wants them to be, while still allowing for a balance between privacy and community. The extensive use of permeable timber screens and open pavilions drive a sense of the house being an extension of the landscape – and part of the ongoing story of this place.abc
House Of The Year 2020

Bamboo Veil House

This 680-square-metre, semi-detached house replaces an earlier house on a curving triangulated site. It is for a small family of just three. “[I] had the luxury of building a small house with an ample amount of shade with deep overhangs,” says the architect, Robin Tan of Wallflower. Part of the clients’ brief was for a house that allowed them to host gatherings of a quite large extended family, previously not possible. Otherwise, they were looking for a house that provided connection to the outside and some form of passive climate control, but without any loss of privacy. The solution was found through another request from the clients. They had recently visited Kengo Kuma’s exquisite Nezu Museum in Tokyo and had been taken by the beauty of the bamboo-screened entry processional. Could they have something similar? The result is an elegant curving skin of operable screens made of vertical bamboo columns that forms a second skin to the first floor of the house. The new, smaller house is set back further than the original and this has enabled the architects to have the bamboo screens extend out to the original setback line, leaving a 1-1.5 metre gap to the façade. The effect of this is to create an air bubble which helps cool the interior. The individual screens are pivoting (resulting in less wear and tear) and the gaps between the bamboo columns allow natural ventilation as well as modulating light entering the first floor bedrooms and so creating a gentle play of light and shadow. The public spaces in the house are on the ground floor, which is free flowing with ample entertaining space both inside and outside on the terrace. The private spaces are on the first floor with an attic above providing a study and a future yoga room. Apart from the bamboo screens, climate mitigation is helped by a large overhang that wraps over the attic aided by ample greenery.“We like to introduce pockets of greenery,” says Robin, “because in Singapore owners want to build up to the max. So we like as much as possible to bring the greenery up to the second storey and to the attic level.” In this case, there is a little garden above the garage. This not only helps cool the master bedroom, but it also provides a privacy screen from the neighbours opposite. Planting on the attic floor screens the western afternoon sunlight while also providing some green relief. In these ways, the house becomes an urban oasis with an easy co-existence of private and public life. The private spaces on the first and second floors form a world of their own, but with the option of connecting with the street life outside. Meanwhile, the public living/dining/kitchen area on the ground floor flows easily between inside and outside, making for an ideal gathering place.abc
House Of The Year 2020

Shade House

The architects say that their objective in designing this house was to create an ecosystem, a kind of self-sustaining house with its own green lungs to combat the air and noise pollution of the city outside. At the same time, it is an exercise in refuge and prospect, combining the convenience of the city with the life-enhancing benefits of nature. Originally conceived as a two-storey building, the architects found that by going up to three storeys they could increase the amount of green space by 60 per cent – twice the mandated green space for Bangkok. Then, by adding pocket gardens at each corner of the house and adding a green roof they could increase green space by 90 per cent and ultimately 150 per cent once the vegetation, including vines over the mesh and white steel rod walls, fully matures. This strategy was aided by placing the infinity edge pool on the first floor as part of the primary residence. This left more space at ground level for landscaping while also enhancing privacy. At ground level there is also a fully self-contained guest suite, the ‘garden villa’, and a Buddha shrine (meditation) room, the latter a glazed garden pavilion framed externally by a screen of slender white metal rods that will eventually be covered in vines. A similar sculptural frame forms an entry sequence leading from the garage to the ‘garden villa’ blurring the division between the lush garden and the interior. This arrival sequence is staged, culminating in a lotus pond signalling the proximity of the meditation room. The impression at ground level of total transparency and connection with the garden is replicated with the first floor ‘pool villa’. Here, a double-height living space with floor-to-ceiling windows leads out to a terrace and the pool, the experience is of living among the trees, effectively in a tree house. Perforated aluminium screens with etched images of a Plumeria tree offer a subtle decorative element, provide privacy, and mediate the climate – the architects found that a 39-degree-Celsius day outside translates into a 26-degree-Celsius day inside due to the screening and natural ventilation. The living quarters sit behind and around the void that extends up to the second floor; another self-contained ‘villa’ set among the tree tops with expansive views. This is a house that seems to de-materialise so that the residence, far from imposing itself on the garden landscape, becomes a part of that landscape. It artfully uses cladding and screening to provide privacy while also generating the sense of connection to the cool, green garden outside.abc
House Of The Year 2020

Upside Down Akubra House

The residents of the Upside Down Akubra House came to architect Alexander Symes with a relatively comprehensive brief. They owned a 314-hectare bull farm outside Nundle (50 kilometres south east of Tamworth) and had already selected the spot on which the house was to reside. At the crest of a gentle hill the clients wanted to capture the views in literally all directions: Yella Rock to the south, Hanging Rock to the east, views north through a grove of Eucalypts and west over the bull paddocks to the rolling hills that follow. “Essentially an amazing 360-degree view all the way around,” says Alexander. But it wasn’t that simple: given its remoteness, it also needed to be completely off-grid. Alexander’s strategy to reconcile uninterrupted views all round and a comfortable internal climate was to design a massive roof structure with large overhangs wrapping around the entire building. This resulted in a roof 2.5 times the size of the 195 square metre floor plan. This blocks out direct sun during summer, but allows it in during winter to warm up the exposed concrete floors and walls, with concrete chosen for its ability to create thermal mass. In fact, explaining this strategy to the clients is how the name for the project came about. Borrowing an Akubra hat and flipping it upside down, Alexander was able to describe with visual reinforcement his concept. Inside, past an air lock entry designed to conserve the heat in winter as guests enter or exit, the house is organised around a central spine that contains the utility and service areas. On the western side of the plan are three bedrooms, within the service core is an ensuite to the main bedroom, a common bathroom and laundry. The eastern side forms an open study, living and dining area connected to the kitchen that flows out into the outdoor living space. Sliding glass doors access the impressive view towards Hanging Rock, while smaller ribbon windows continue all the way around the house. “There’s a larger window to wall ratio in the living spaces because that looks out to the views,” says Alexander. “But on the west the widow to wall ratio has been reduced so that you can minimise the amount of solar gains and thermal conductivity through the façade.” Moreover, this balances privacy for the bedrooms with the client’s desire for 360-degree views. “Through design or luck a lot of my projects are about aligning prevailing winds, views, and solar orientation to create the building form,” he continues. Blackbutt Hardwood has been used for the doors, windows and joinery while the ceilings and awnings are finished with Radiata Pine. This gives a natural and warm feeling to the interiors and, in conjunction with the exposed concrete, a colour palette that mirrors that of the surrounding landscape. The skillion roof intersects with the carport roof in a double skillion style. The 80 square metres of the carport roof are comprised of LG neon bi-facial photo-voltaics, which in turn generate enough energy to run the house. The angle of the main roof and a 450-millimetre diameter gutter encourages rainwater to the eastern corner of the roof, where it free-falls “like a waterfall” into a concrete trough. This then feeds the rainwater into a 107,000-litre rainwater storage tank that collects enough water for the household and the management of waste. “When it does rain it’s a joyous occasion,” says Alexander. “It’s about playing with the theatre of those moments [but] it’s not theatre for trickery’s sake, it’s theatre for what I consider real issues in the world such as water security and efficient use of resources.” Living off-grid is by no means a new concept, concedes Alexander, but he notes that in this location – both remote and very much at the mercy of extreme weather – it’s entirely necessary.abc
House Of The Year 2020

Wall House

This house is located in Bansberia, a city and municipality about 45 kilometres from Kolkata in West Bengal. The owner had acquired three adjacent plots on a busy intersection and wanted to consolidate them and build a new residence. He approached Abin Design Studio because he had seen previous residential work of theirs. His main preoccupations were to do with privacy, security and noise – to this end he requested a 3.5 metre (12 foot) high boundary wall. However, it was immediately apparent that if such a wall followed the plot boundary, it would constitute a traffic hazard by obstructing sightlines on a corner site where several roads came together. After much discussion, the client agreed to give up a small part of the plot, allowing the wall to be facetted back to maintain clear sightlines. This also gave something back to the public domain by widening the footpath and providing for low-height shrubs. The new strategy also led to the idea of integrating the wall with the building envelope which, in turn, offered the opportunity to shape the wall to a more human scale. The envelope is of weathered steel cut to provide simple, geometric patterning which complements, say the architects, the “timeless and monolithic” feel of the Silver Travertine wall. In addition, variegated large openings to the steel wall – providing tantalising glimpses into the building complex – together with bold angles to the façade, combine to animate the building’s exterior, making for a dramatic addition to the immediate urban context. Inside the perimeter, the house – which is really a compound house – consists of several masses that wrap themselves around a series of courtyards with water features, a swimming pool, green and pebble gardens and informal stone step seating. All of this makes for a diverse and loose collection of spatial experiences offering both private nooks and public spaces for coming together. Moving around and through the compound creates the sense of a journey with an intriguing circulation from light to shade, inside to outside. Large double-height glazed walls – the framing replicating the patterning on the weathered steel wall – draw light into the interiors where timber finishes, balustrading and stairs temper the industrial feel of the steel and the solidity of the stone. Overall, this house is a fascinating blend of privacy and community. As an urban player it provides privacy for the residents, but also manages to maintain connection with its immediate neighbourhood through the openings and scaling of its perimeter wall. Inside, it continues this strategy by its loose clustering of spaces and a unifying theme of transparency to create a relaxed family of public and private spaces.abc
House Of The Year 2020

House at Kalalgoda

A little over 15 kilometres from downtown Colombo, this house offers a transition from the bustle of the city to rural calm. It is a classic example of the tropical modern house where the clean functionality of modernism is fully at home within a tropical climate: celebrating it without sacrificing comfort and sanctuary. Typical of the tropical modernist house, the House at Kalalgoda turns its back on the urban street and only reveals itself through an articulated entry progression. A fairly narrow plot with a site area of just 364-metres-squared, the house presents at street level as a concrete frame (the garage and white rendered volume of the house) and a porous brick wall to one side of two handsome timber doors. Beyond these doors is a small entry court shaded by lush Dan trees (Lilly Pilly) and paved with earth-coloured tiles forming an edge to the red gravel garden. The upper level of the house partially conceals itself behind a timber screen made up of vertical slats to allow breezes into the bedroom behind. But once inside there is a sequence of framed views leading through the dappled light of a double-height void culminating in the glazed living/dining area. This in turn leads out on to a stone terrace where the transition from urban noise to rural serenity concludes with sweeping views of a cool, green paddy field. Apart from the visual connection to nature – through views and the diurnal play of light down into the void – the house can largely self-regulate. Natural ventilation is generated by the spatial flow of the open plan, porous timber screens on the windows and the double-height void, partly open to the sky, with its twin Dan trees set in the middle of a shallow pond. The cooling potential of the natural ventilation is enhanced by the house being open to cooling breezes off the paddy field. The pond is backed by a blind brick wall, a defining boadwalk down the edge of the pond and wrapping around one end. This is made from recycled timber railway sleepers, while loose timber furnishings, vertical timber screens and timber planters combine with the brick wall to form a warm and natural palette. Appropriately, the lower level of the house is dedicated to the public spaces, while the upper level is a kind of piano nobile intersected by the void. The upper level bedrooms and study look out on to the brick wall of the void, the rising Dan trees and glimpses of the sky. With its use of textured natural materials, indoor greenery, framed views of the outside opening up to a grand vista and its family of intimate yet connected spaces, this house generates a sense of living in nature – and connection to nature – while still providing elegant and comfortable amenity. Part of that amenity is the pervasive mood of calm stillness, a meditative atmosphere concentrated at the heart of the house – namely, the cool, green temple-like void with its ceremonial water feature.abc
House Of The Year 2020

Te Pakeke

“Our clients wanted a small and intimate house,” says architect Tim Hay of Fearon Hay Architects. “They’d seen Storm Cottage on Great Barrier Island and thought a similarly spacious cabin would suit their needs too.” Intended primarily as a winter retreat, Te Pakeke (named after an old family name) is located in a suburban area north of Wanaka township, surrounded by the lake and mountains. Located on the corner of an arterial road, the challenge was to provide privacy and a sense of retreat without compromising the view. Creating a protected microclimate around the house was also important for the owners, who wished to maximise the time they spent outdoors. Wintertime in the Southern Lakes region is crisp, clear and cold, with blue skies frequently accompanied by an icy southerly, so dealing with the wind was a prime design driver. Fearon Hay reached for the pure forms of the wall and the cube to create simple, refined spaces. From the most protected – the interior – to the semi-protected – the courtyard – to the rolling, open lawn and lake view, the spatial layering provides a range of experiences from intimate to expansive. The dwelling itself is sheltered behind an L-shaped garden wall, shutters, glass, curtains and layers within create different levels of enclosure and light quality. For Tim, “the cross section through these layers is in one sense very simple, but these strategies also create interest and complexity in how they filter light, and create more solidity or more openness according to the conditions and outlook.” The garden wall breaks the chilly prevailing winds enabling the gravelled courtyard to be used year-round. “Being so far south, Wanaka has extended daylight hours and the owners wanted to make the most of the outdoors while they were on holiday.” The house itself is almost square, planned on a series of axes that allows occupants to sense layers, bringing in views and natural light from different orientations throughout the day. Within these axes, the architects have placed solid concrete walls and glazed openings to control views and enclosure. Wrapping the exterior of the cube are a series of perforated metal shutters, edged in brass. These sliding, bi-fold panels are sun protection, privacy screening and can be locked down for security when the house is empty. They also veil the house in a gauzy mesh, which reduces its solid appearance for a more subtle presence in such an epic landscape. Materiality is influenced by the mountains, the local stone and raw, glaciated lake walls. Rather than apply the local schist, Fearon Hay has used concrete in different textures to reference the environment and create a heatsink to warm the outdoor rooms. The perimeter wall of rough-textured plaster recalls the old stone walls of Central Otago, without the nostalgia a more traditional material would create. Concrete is also used extensively inside, in the floors and countertops, with walls finished in hand-floated natural plaster. This solidity is balanced by the warmth of a cedar-lined ceiling, the gauzy screens and generous use of textiles. The efficient 140-square-metre interior wastes no space and features various devices to expand and extend the view. Thick walls create a sense of separation between living and sleeping. Large openings east, south and west extend the living outside. And the utility block – with kitchen storage back-to-back with a laundry and gear room – is mirror-clad so that it dissolves within the open living space, providing captivating oblique reflections of the surroundings. Layers of space, texture and light make Te Pakeke more than just a modern cabin. It is a sophisticated building offering both seclusion and expansiveness in a big landscape, and a modern interpretation of the mountain hut.abc
House Of The Year 2020

CH House

We all know about free plan, but what about free section? This house over five levels (plus a roof terrace) plays with differing ceiling heights, split levels, three voids and a spread of functional spaces to create the sense of a continuous vertical space in what is a very narrow building. The house was built for a three-generation family keen to maintain the Vietnamese tradition of multi-generational living in an age when it is threatened by smartphones, television and modern life generally. It is also a refuge from the noise and air pollution of Vietnam’s capital city, drawing in air and light from its voids, with ample internal green space including mature trees. The inspiration for the house is also traditional, drawing as it does on the Vietnamese shophouse with its internal open courtyards. Like the shophouse it also incorporates commercial activity, in this case the ground and first floors that house a commercial enterprise. The building inherited the dimensions of the shophouse as well: the site is a mere 4.2 metres wide and 35 metres deep, much narrower than, say, its Singaporean counterpart. Hence, the ‘free section’ which counteracts any feeling of claustrophobia, not just by breaking up the floorplates and drawing in light and views, but also by spreading out household activities and so enabling greater levels of privacy. The façade is a combination of perforated concrete blocks and steel-framed glass. It incorporates two street-facing, double-height windows for light and views, but also to give the building some exterior character by breaking down the mass and alleviating some of the clutter of its immediate urban context. The domestic realm starts on the second floor (level three) and is planned to provide for the needs of three generations as well as providing a healthy environment, including passive climate control through its internal greenery and its voids. The common spaces – living room, library, dining, kitchen – are spread over the three levels with a continuous sense of connection both vertically and in plan due to the varying ceiling heights, split levels and staggered voids. Internal trees provide a cooling, calm ambience and work together with timber detailing and joinery to soften the concrete shell. According to the architects the aim of the design was to achieve spatial harmony, maintain family tradition, respond to the local climate and provide a contemporary lifestyle tempered by the benefits of a living tradition. It is really a clever exercise in balancing privacy and community within a total floor space of just 220 square metres.abc
House Of The Year 2020

Compound House

It was once just one in a street of very modest, single-storey row houses with pitched tiled rooves dating from the 1950s. Now its parti wall remains intact along with the opposing wall flanking a pedestrian walkway, but the interior has been completely opened up. Previously, says architect Ling Hao, the house was in a “very interiorised condition”, closed off to minimise noise from the busy street. But the family had grown to five. They needed more space – the rear courtyard had even been covered to create another room – and they hankered after a garden. Still, they were a close family. So, how to live together as a family, but have a garden and offer the privacy which growing children start to need – all on a modest budget? For Ling Hao these were challenges he relished, especially the opportunity to work on a small house because, in Singapore, the obsession is to ‘max out’; that and the opportunity to respond to Singapore’s wet and humid climate without resorting to enclosed spaces with air-conditioning. It helped that the lady of the house had grown up in a more rural environment and was used to the kind of traditional dwelling that Ling Hao himself grew up with in the Malaysian town of Kuching. His father had designed and built a concrete house on stilts with the ground floor entirely open. In this sense it was like a traditional compound house where the ground floor was entirely open and people lived in a single space. “Living in a house is not so much about how big your land is, but how you enclose and open up things – as long as you have sufficient shelter,” says Ling Hao. The idea of the compound house was never spelled out. Instead, Ling Hao talked to his clients about how they lived. Also, they remained closely involved in both the design and building of the house throughout. The result is a house that truly reflects the way the family lives, but also provides flexibility and privacy as required. Most of all, it is closely connected to the natural world by virtue of its openness and the generous greenery, including the garden roof whose trees play a major role in cooling the house. “Everywhere you feel as though you are among the plants,” says Ling Hao. A second floor has been created together with a roof garden without losing the scale of the existing streetscape. The ground floor is left largely open. The parents’ bedroom is at the back and can be closed off with glass sliding doors, but the rest of the downstairs space is family space, including the kitchen, which becomes a combined wet and dry kitchen. It is, says Ling Hao, basically a reconstruction where everything concrete has been kept, with only columns introduced to support the roof. Upstairs is the children’s area, accessed by a spiraling steel staircase. A timber deck runs the length of this level with a raised timber bench so that the children can sit to do homework or read. Beyond this is a void open to the weather. Inside, slightly raised above the timber deck, is a single long space with timber flooring and slender timber sliding doors that enable individual spaces to be created as necessary. Similarly, sliding timber doors with low-level windows access the timber deck outside. Ling Hao explains that to have created permanently enclosed rooms on this level would have changed the overall scale of the house, so “the floor becomes the furniture”. It may look Japanese, he says, but this is what traditional Malay houses look like – modest in scale, with low ceilings and the floor where everything happens. In this case, the timber also softens the interior against the hardness of the concrete. Most importantly, though, the house has been opened up to allow air movement. As for the rain pouring in and creating “puddles”, well, the lady of house is used to that from her younger years. She likes puddles and has even grown used to the caterpillars that ravage her vegetables and greenery.abc
House Of The Year 2020

CLT House

Designed for a couple with adult children and grandchildren, this house, located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, is known as CLT, short for cross-laminated timber. “It was this material that drove the design; a material that could be fully expressed throughout the home, revealing its structure,” says architect Fiona Dunin, director of FMD Architects. Fiona and her team were given a simple single-storey 1970s brown brick house on a sprawling 8-hectare site that operates as a working farm. “Peter and Sue are working towards retirement (from their building business) and are now spending more time during their week down here. The children and grandchildren are also here regularly on weekends and holidays,” says Fiona, explaining the need for a considerably larger home. “Peter also needed a place where he could work from,” she adds. With a fall across the site of approximately four metres, one of the main issues was not only space but also, importantly, a connection to the northern garden, predominantly unused. So the brown bricks of the original house were rendered and a first floor addition, with a sawtooth-style roof, was created. “I wanted to pick up on the surrounding farm sheds as well as bringing the appropriate even-quality light into the studio (on the first floor, along with the main bedroom at one end and a guest bedroom at the other).” The ground floor, dissected by the covered carport, features a complete reworking of the original home on one side and a completely new bunkroom on the other. “The idea was to create the feel of an entirely new house rather than something that’s been added to,” says Fiona. The children and grandchildren are now fortunate enough to have their own accommodation, including five bedrooms and two living areas. The kitchen and dining area on the ground floor brings the entire family together. With an emphasis on functionality and practicality, the materials used by FMD Architects include cross-laminated beams expressed in structural elements, as well as in the form of a light fitting above the kitchen island bench – made from CLT but limed. The profile of this light also evokes the outline of the home’s sawtooth roof. “Sue and Peter didn’t want any superfluous details. But the CLT was also in the plan, given its ability to support considerable expanses, up to 14 metres in this case,” says Fiona, who was keen to create a certain rhythm in the design, as well as being able to frame the majestic gum trees on the property. The use of charcoal steel on the exterior picks up on the tree trunks as well as further echoing the industrial/farm aesthetic. At night, the house becomes even more animated when the interior lights create a more exaggerated profile in the bush setting. What was a simple 70s house has become a substantial home for a large extended family. There are now not only sufficient bedrooms, but a variety of living and outdoor areas to choose from, including outdoor decks on the first floor that offer impressive views over Western Port Bay. “The spaces are loosely conceived to cater for parents on the top level and the rest of the family below, but some areas are obviously shared,” says Fiona, who created a separate library/office for Peter on the top floor, as well as a large trestle-style table in the main workspace where grandchildren can spread out with their butcher’s paper and crayons. “It’s a place to be used and enjoyed, and designed to be extremely functional.”abc