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.

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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 🙂

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.

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.


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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

Zig Zag Cabin

Drew Heath Architect, 2003

This wonderful little abode is such an inspiration for high density/compact living. Tighter constraints, be they budget, size, time, can often be exciting, inspirational starting points for design.


Located in Wollombi, 2.5hrs North of Sydney, the Zig Zag Cabin is more akin to an oversized piece of joinery. The house sleeps three people, two at ground level and one at a mezzanine, reached by a ladder.

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Much thought has been given to the windows, which provide framed views of the natural environment surrounds. In such a small project, the detailing of the materials and junctions becomes important, as does the three dimensional use of space.


It is nice to feel enclosed, sheltered, with the opportunity to step outside and engross oneself in the natural elements.


Sometimes I feel that the integrity of a design can dissolve as the floor space or budget of a project grow.  A tightly configured puzzle suddenly gains volume and the project changes character.


The success of this project is the strength of the concept, and the purity with which it has been executed.  Rumour has it that the design was conceived in a sketch on a beer coaster, and aside from being a good story, perhaps it is representative of the direct translation of idea to building.

zig zag cabin 4 tiny house small home

If you’re lucky enough to acquire some bush land, surely the most delightful architectural solution is to step back humbly and thrust you into the wilderness?

Don’t seduce the occupant inside; encourage them to embrace their surrounds.


And I think this project does just that.  Rather than a territorial statement, narcissistically perched at the top of a hill like a discoverer’s flag, it is instead nestled half way down the hill, surrounded by a small timber deck, then natural bush.

A beautiful architecture, one that withstands trends and fashion, has adaptive usability.. Perhaps fundamentally, sustainable construction is one that will remain for a long time, continuing to enchant us?

See Drew Heath’s website: http://www.drewheath.com

Information and image source, ‘Zig Zag Cabin’, Architecture Australia by Brett Boardman: http://architectureau.com/articles/zig-zag-cabin/

Cycle Storage

It’s been great to see push bikes having a growing presence on the road in Sydney recently.


As a rider myself, regularly tenanting tiny houses comes with the constant struggle: where to store your bike!


If you live in a small house or apartment and regularly use your bike, you may have experienced this common problem.. so how do you store your wheels?


There are some great, playful and innovative solutions on the internet so I thought I’d show a few.


I love how the bike becomes another household object in this storage shelf by Post Fossil, the bike just seated amongst the books and shoes. Post Fossil are a great collective of designers whose holistic approach considers not just sustainable material use but the influence of social behaviour patterns too. Check out their website here.



Bikes as beautiful, sculptural objects such as the following example by Cycle Love..


These are mainly indoor solutions, I’d love to see more creative ideas for external, safe, weatherproof storage ideas.

CAN anyone suggest any?

Happy Riding

Streets in the Sky

Alison + Peter Smithson (A+PS)

As well as looking at current trends and ideas, its good to reflect on past concepts too.

Post WWII England celebrated victory at a huge economic sacrifice, seen in the shortage of housing and social services. Slums were associated with terrace houses and architects felt responsible for social improvement through built form.


Alison and Peter Smithson were two British architects that strove for a universal architecture by rationalising and simplifying into four functions: dwelling, work, recreation and transportation.

Their photographer friend Nigel Henderson was fascinated with the strong sense of community fostered in narrow, terraced streets. See below, his photographs of everyday scenes in East London’s Streets in the 1950’s.


A+PS were interested in one’s connection to the city, donning  the ‘hierarchy of human association’: individual – house – street – district – city. See their diagram below.


They reasoned that residents of apartment housing lost the first point of contact with the world: the street.

human assoc street

They tried to counteract this by introducing ‘streets in the sky’ -widened circulation corridors. See below, their illustration for the Golden Lane Project. -Note Marilyn Monroe in the foreground!

These streets were intended as locations for social exchange similar to a residential street.


Contrary to their intentions, other than the consideration of ‘street’ width, there was little incentive for residents to stay or interact, and the horizontal circulation became little more than widened thoroughfares, sometimes resulting in back alley, ‘ghetto’ situations such as the Robin Hood Housing Scheme (illustration above).

See photo below of Park Hill, Sheffield; a Smithson inspired development with widened circulation.


Despite mixed success in their realised projects, A+PS’s ideas represented a commitment to humanism in architecture, and their ideas remain pertinent today.

With current trends towards vertical gardens, green roofs and walls, CAN these ideas be revised and reapplied to current developments?

Post update -Robin Hood Gardens Estate set to be demolished August 2015. In light of this tragic news check out this short video created to reflect the recent news:




Banham, Reyner, 1961, “Apropos the Smithsons”, New Statesman, No. 62

Mumford, Eric, 2000, “The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960”, The MIT Press, Cambridge

Smithson, Alison, 1967, “Urban Structuring: Studies of Alison and Peter Smithson”, Reinhold Published Corporation, New York

Smithson, Alison, Smithson, Peter, Bakema, Jacob, van Eyck, Aldo, van Ginkel, Daniel, Voelcker, John, Hovens Greve, Hans, 1968, “Doorn Manifesto”, Team 10 Primer, Smithson, Alison, The MIT Press, Cambridge, p75

Smithson, Alison and Peter, 2005, “The Charged Void: Urbanism”, The Monacelli Press, New York, Edited by Spellman, Catherine, Unglaub, Karl, 2005, “Peter Smithson: Conversations with Students”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York

Vidler, Anthony, 2003, “Toward a Theory of the Architectural Program”, October, Vol. 106, The MIT Press, p59-74

Webster, Helena, 1997, “Modernism Without Rhetoric: Essays on the work of Alison and Peter Smithson”, Academy Editions, London

All images are linked to their internet sources

Renovate or Relocate

Buying, selling, moving. With its associated costs, it’s no wonder that more and more people are turning to renovating rather than relocating.


Renovating is a great way to spend money directly on improving the way you live.


Clever design often maximises storage and promotes efficient use space (often through multipurpose rooms and open planning).


It’s a great, sustainable way to consider a building as something that can be altered and adjusted to suit your needs, rather than demolished and rebuilt.


Just think of beautiful terrace houses that have gradually been adapted over their 100 year life yet continue to serve the inhabitants.


The images in this blog come from Small Spaces Interior Design. The 65m2 garden apartment [completely renovated by SSID] was valued at $150k more than what the owners bought it for three years prior in 2010. This, following a $45k construction budget!

Check out the clever storage solutions and open plan living.


For more information see http://smallspacesid.com/