If you are a regular fan of the Australian reality cooking show ‘Masterchef’ you would know that last week George Calombaris cooked an amazing restaurant quality dish by using just one core ingredient, corn. Through his creativity and knowledge of a singular product we saw him manipulate it in ways not many of us would dream of. This display of mastery got me thinking about how many circumstances in life could benefit from being simplified to produce extraordinary results. How might this idea apply to construction?
Traditionally, during the evolutionary process of building we see many different trades, all using specialist skills that over a long period of time produce an end product. Is there a way, like George’s corn dish, of looking at building where we could maximise the use of just one core ingredient to produce unbelievable refined outcomes?
Throughout the world we are currently witnessing a new sub-culture emerging. It has to do with minimalist living, reducing the clutter of life and cutting out the fat. We are beginning to see it in everything from shoe design that integrates barefoot technology to a renewed push for cycling and using ones physical energy instead of cars and public transport etc. The real test of this effort however will be in housing, which is often the last to be effected by such movements.
I would like to introduce to you a house that I have been working on for some time now. It attempts to apply physically many of the above thoughts while at the same time allowing for a strong and deliberate response to place. The design started its life as a real project for a neighbour that lived next door to one of our rental properties. The site had a gentle slope to it, the only down side that it faced west, not the best orientation for the Southeast Queensland climate. Unfortunately, the client has since decided to put the land on the market because of personal reasons before this scheme could be realised but for the sake of research I decided to continue on exploring my ideas.
The key to this design is simplicity, flexibility and an understanding of what it is the site is offering from both an environmental and an outlook perspective. No surprise, my chosen one core ingredient was Bondor’s Insulwall which, if you have read my last blog post, embodies an all encompassing construction solution. As I began to design this home it dawned on me that there was an opportunity to try and do something that has never to my knowledge been done previously. Before I describe it you have to understand one thing about the Bondor product. Its inventers are in the business of selling panel, therefore this suggests that the product would be used in either onsite construction (built in-situ) or used by modular construction companies to make up their transportable dongers. I was going to attempt to do both. I wanted to create a house where the client had the flexibility to build it in a factory and transport it or alternatively build it on site and have the panels cut and delivered.
The key to producing a product that encapsulates the essence of simplicity is to create an ease of construction no matter the circumstance. What made this site a little more difficult was it had a slope to it. Ask any modular building company about slope and they will most likely tell you to go elsewhere for your build. I had to come up with a system that allowed for slope but at the same time retain its simplicity. Just remember that when dealing with transportable buildings it is important to get your sizes right. I chose the overall size of 12m x 3.4m which is the maximum transportable size here in Queensland before you have to use escort cars. Some companies do like to build up to about 17m long but when traveling longer distances they incur added transport costs.
To achieve symmetry I made sure that each pavilion’s skillion roof (sloping roof) lined up with the next. This would, when finished, allow for one continuous roofline at exactly the same gradient. When positioned each transportable would naturally cater for the slope in the land. By strategically placing the same number of small steps at the back edge of each module I could allow for a trafficable interior.
Now that I knew how I was going to construct this baby on a sloped site in the most simplistic and efficient way possible I had to make it personal and site specific. I want to emphasise at this point that the ideas and floor plan arrangements are open ended and are not necessarily appropriate to every site. My layout has been designed as a response to the context I was working with.
Public space to the north along with bathrooms that will warm up as they get winter sun, bedrooms to the south creating a sense of retreat and privacy, part high walls central to each pavilion with identically operable skylights above creating a central breezeway and a natural light corridor. From each platform ones eye is drawn down towards the lower levels while at the same time allowing for a guided perspective through the veil of architecture that is the skylights below, never allowing for direct exposure to the western sun. All design ideas respond to our Queensland subtropics. Please feel free to check out the design on our website. www.bleuscape.com.au it is under the prefab/modular tab and is called ‘The Sloping House’.
Two of the most beautiful things you can offer people when designing them a home is to allow for natural breeze and sunlight. These two elements when controlled create a serenity and peace within a dwelling that is rarely seen in corporate or industrial buildings. We live in a beautiful environment that can offer us so much if we pay attention to what a site is offering.
In conclusion I would like to suggest that there is an opportunity here to literally start a movement. For so long residential architecture has been realised in a curtain way, this way needs to change, in fact I would go as far as saying it should have changed along time ago. To a curtain degree that is not the fault of the public but rather conservative control hungry organisations like city councils, and project home companies. It is time to change people, and that doesn’t mean we have to compromise. By looking at architecture with new lenses we can produce enclaves that epitomise relevancy and bring back appropriate living to the people.