Dream Big: Think Small

When constructing alterations, additions, or brand new dwellings how does one quantify value for money? -Obviously more square metres for less money right? But what if it were more qualitative than that..

There have been a few great articles recently which we hope reflects a changing approach to architecture and housing in Australia.

See below excerpt from an article on ArchitectureAU:


” A City of Fremantle councillor has put forward an amendment to the Western Australian planning scheme that could see more “tiny houses” built in the city…


…The amendment proposes to allow for the subdivision of larger residential blocks to create smaller independently owned houses. It proposes a maximum size of 120 square metres for each dwelling (by way of comparison, this is well above the minimum of 90 square metres for a three-bedroom apartment under New South Wales’ new Apartment Design Guide). “


We hope it will encourage adaptation and reuse of existing buildings, in contrast with the wasteful knock-down-re-build approach. See here for more information and the original article by Linda Cheng at ArchitectureAU.

CAN we challenge mainstream thought and encourage clients to invest in smaller, but better quality spaces?

Australian Design Review published an interesting article recently on the growing interest in Tiny Houses. Author Emily Taliangis describes the trend forming from a variety of reasons: environmental, financial and ease of construction.

” …In compensation for their limited size, tiny houses place great emphasis on design, often utilising dual purpose features and multi-functional furniture. Vertical space optimisation is a common strategy – think beds over the kitchen, and storage at the roof. Tiny houses have all the amenities of regular sized homes, though clever planning and design is essential…”

However she continues to write that:

” …While the tiny house movement is gaining momentum, it realistically has a ways to go before it will influence living models in the mainstream. A recent article by the ABC reports that newly built Australian houses are “bigger on average than anywhere else in the world at 245 square metres for new freestanding homes, and 215 square metres for new homes overall,” demonstrating an increase in housing sizes of roughly 10 percent in the last decade… “

Read the article here.

The following image is from an article titled “Huge houses an irresponsible drain on the environment” by Dr Robert Crawford on smh.com.au


The following images come from Tiny House Blog.

ESCAPE-Traveler-TinyHouse5-750x500 ESCAPE-Traveler-TinyHouse6-750x500 ESCAPE-Traveler-TinyHouse9-750x494

escape traveller

So here at CANstudio we have decided to explore the idea of tiny houses and small living. Feel free to flashback to a previous article: Zig Zag Cabin and continue to follow our small exploration over the following month.



Zig Zag Cabin by Architect/Builder Drew Heath, photo taken by Brett Boardman

Small things CAN make a big difference 🙂

Rauch On


From the first moment I saw this Austrian family home, I fell in love with it.


Completed in 2008, this rammed earth monolith is the product of a collaboration between Martin Rauch and Roger Boltshauser.


Above – note the beautiful consideration of detail: alternating clay bricks between rammed earth layers create gentle horizontal lines.


Textural walls, contrast with crisp, bold lines of the steel stairs.


Clean modern lines balance the warm, textural character of the materiality.





Cut into the earth, windows frame views back to the rock. Square frames highlight rough textures.


This is a fantastic example of natural materials used within a modern aesthetic.

Photo and information credits:



Check out the firms website here:





“Brick Replacement Service” was a delightful hand powered installation built for Dezeen Space in September 2011, for individually building ‘Reseeding Bricks’.


A Reseeding Brick is comprised of a soil and clay mix housing a multitude of seeds.


It was envisaged as a replacement brick that encourages natural plant life and growth within the city.



A beautiful, small intervention that promotes natural growth within the city, while also strengthening the city dweller’s connection between both their natural and urban environment.


Taking ownership of one’s locality promotes community, connection and pride.


Source: http://jailmake.com/jail-studio/brick-replacement-service-reseeding-bricks/

Assemble_Design & Architecture Collective

I recently came across the work of Assemble, whose core practice ethos has a highly inspiring and commendable belief in “the importance of addressing the typical disconnection between the public and the process by which spaces are made”.

Assemble are a design and architecture collective based in London who actively involve the public in their projects “as both participant and accomplice”.

Lets explore a few of their projects that I particularly connected with:

Sugarhouse Studios


This is a great example where architects and designers conceive a potential project from a set of unmet demands. An opportunity for architectural intervention. It seems Assemble had a vision for a methodology of work:  “The project seeks to find a way for private practice (space for research, design and construction) to be opened up to form the backdrop for a public building.”


– Rather than a typical client-architect brief, Assemble have seen an opportunity to build local community through architecture.


The building has played host to a variety of uses including a cafe, cinema, construction workshops, exhibitions and late night events. It continues to be the workshop and workspace of Assemble and their collaborators.



The Cineroleum 

Cineroleum_Zander-Olsen_0011 Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Here, Assemble self-initiated a project, transforming a derelict petrol station into a hand-built cinema.

cineroleum 6

cineroleum 5

They saw potential in what could otherwise have remained an abandoned structure, ready for demolition. – The potential for adaptive reuse, to build a community through its realisation, and to continue to support and nurture that community through its continued use.



Assemble’s other projects include:

Folly for a Flyover – the transformation of a disused motorway undercroft “non-place” into a new public place.


Blackhorse Workshop – a public workshop that provides access to tools and affordable workspace


“The Playing Field” – a new typology theatre space


Assemble have demonstrated the potential for adaptive reuse – key to sustainable architecture.

How can architects encourage design for future adaptation, flexibility and change of use? How can they incorporate this ethos into their design process? And how can local community involvement benefit public architecture? -Assemble have certainly shown an admirable approach to these challenges.

All photos and information come from their informative website. – I highly recommend a visit: http://assemblestudio.co.uk/

Living In Iconic Houses

Today I attended the second talk in a series prepared by Karen McCartney, guest curator of the Iconic Australian Houses Exhibition at Customs House, Sydney.

The discussion surrounded Living In Iconic Houses, where several panel guests reflected upon their time living in ‘Iconic Australian Homes’. Karen McCartney, currently living in Bruce Rickard’s Marshall House, Dr Bill Lyons, the commissioning client and current owner of Robin Boyd’s Lyons House, Sydney, and Neil Buhrich who grew up in numerous iconic homes designed and built by his late father, Hugh Buhrich.

Below: Marshall House, Bruce Rickard

Marshall House, architect Bruce Rickard. cropped. Photograph (c) Micheal Wee

For McCartney, it seemed as though the building had chosen her, as much as her choosing the house. Self-designated custodian to the house, she has meticulously preserved the dwelling. She has carefully considered the architectural design and complimented it with her own style and personality.


See the kitchen below. McCartney reflected that when small spaces are well and efficiently designed, they can continue to meet one’s needs.


Below: Lyons House, Robin Boydlyons 2

Dr Bill Lyons touched on the significance of the architect-client relationship. Something I feel quite passionate about is the importance not only of a good understanding between architect and client, but shared ideals, be they an aesthetic, or a design approach (eg sustainability). Lyons

Lyons also praised the design for withstanding his fluctuating life situations: the design enduring changing married, family and single life.lyons 4 Lyons continues to live in the house since he commissioned it in the late 60’s.lyons 5

lyons 3

Below: Buhrich House, Sydney

buhrich 3Son of Hugh Buhrich, Neil was raised in a house that was under a constant state of construction for most of his time there. He later moved into this house, designed and built by his father for himself and his wife, (Neil’s mother).Buhrich_House_6

Neil Buhrich shared childhood anecdotes of climbing precarious winder stairs, no balustrade, above vast drops below. He showed great pride and affection for the beautiful house, similar to McCartney and the Marshall house, who saw herself as custodian of the dwelling.

buhrich 2Buhrich_House_1

In audience discussion time, (led by Fenella Kernebone), proud owners and previous inhabitants of architect-designed homes reflected upon the happiness that their dwelling provided. It was so refreshing to hear non-architects discuss the nourishment that architecture can provide, from formative years as a child, to raising a family in such inspirational spaces.

Houses should not be oversized expressions of one’s wealth and stability. They should be warm, nourishing dwellings that contribute to the inhabitant’s general life.

Functional, efficient, relevant, beautiful and above all inspirational. Architecture in collaboration with its inhabitant.

Rendered Speechless


There are perhaps a few preconceptions about natural render in architecture and their association with a particular aesthetic: natural renderers go hand-in-hand with curved, organic, rustic, owner-built homes right? Wrong!


I decided to gather a few images of contemporary applications of natural clay and lime renders.



The contrast of a beautiful, earthy natural render finish adds depth and warmth to sleek, contemporary spaces.


I then stumbled across the beautiful project: Tea Mountain cafe, Prague, by A1 Architects, featuring a black straw and clay wall.


The design is reminiscent of Japanese Tea Houses and Wabi Sabi aesthetics – centred around the beauty of imperfection. See their website here.republic  Tea-shop-in-Prague-by-A1-Architects_dezeen_2

Architect Lenka Kremenova spoke to Dezeen commenting that “We always search for a certain kind of quality of materials which could be called ‘touchableness’.”

In contrast. see the following photos where Michaela Scherrer Interior Design use lime render in a bathroom.


Lime renders are naturally antibacterial and allow a wall to ‘breathe’, creating healthier internal environments. ldebq7a32s (1)

You CAN get rendering!Clayworks - Katy plastering 2


Further links and reading:

A1 Architects, Czech Republic

Supacoat natural render suppliers, Australia

Viva Living Homes Strawbale Homes

Sydney Seeing Green

How exciting it is to see all the greenery popping up all over Sydney, as more and more architects and designers incorporate vegetation into their designs.031cheapsyd03



Above: Paddington Reservoir, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects

Decisions in the construction industry have a longstanding impact on the wider street-scape and city, so it important that we direct the built environment towards a sustainably conscious, responsible direction.


p182b67ialm481sc0dk11i9t3pv5_w600_h0 p182alfmja2f99k6vha1bv71ivjc_w600_h0

Above: Prince Alfred Pool, Central, Neeson Murcutt Architects

Within the urban environment, the vegetation not only looks beautiful but provides many  benefits including: insulation (soil is a fantastic insulator), offsetting the urban heat island effect (the high thermal mass of the city absorbs heat), reduced rain water run off, increased biodiversity, fresh air!

There are also some great initiatives pushing for city farms which would reduce food mileage and encourage city dwellers outside!


Above: Trio Apartments, Camperdown, in collaboration with French Botanist Patrick Blanc



Above: Central Park by Jean Nouvel in collaboration with French Botanist Patrick Blanc

More links and further reading:

A great article by Broadsheet Sydney on Sydney’s Green Revolution

Sydney 202020 Vision

City of Sydney Green Roofs and Walls in Sydney

City of Sydney City Farm

Sydney City Farm Community