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:

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” 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…

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…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). “

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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

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The following images come from Tiny House Blog.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

A Straw Tale

CAN Studio had the wonderful opportunity in May last year to attend a straw bale building course, hosted by Sam Vivers of Viva Homes.

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Why build straw bale?

Straw is an incredible insulator. This means it does not readily allow the passage of heat or sound. So if you heat your house, it will stay warm, or if you cool your house it will stay cool. And if you build with straw bale walls, internally will be a fairly consistent temperature all year round.

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Straw is a natural, organic material that can be sustainably grown. Building with natural materials = healthy home = healthy occupants.

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The Building Course

The course was run at the Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC), Mudgee, New South Wales. It ran for three days and was the perfect balance of classroom learning in the morning, followed by hands on building in the afternoon. This meant not only a thorough, all round learning experience, but one that appeased both the practical and the more technical learners.

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Course topics covered the whole process, from initial design stages, council and statutory regulations, to technical building considerations and different building options, to the final coats of render. Not only did it cover what to do, but what NOT to do! A great strength of this course was the use of demonstration walls. Unlike other courses, where a building must be completed within the given timeframe, the wall construction in this course was for demonstration only, so no time pressures!

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The course attracted a wonderful demographic of people, from house-owners, to owner-builders, builders, carpenters, architects, engineers, designers, and general straw bale enthusiasts! -Not everyone had a background in building and construction.

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As the trainer, Sam Vivers generously shared his knowledge, allowing us to learn from his past mistakes, hoping to minimise ours! Sam is a great advocate for straw bale building. He began his journey in the mainstream construction industry, but moved quickly away from the toxic, chemical based building products to build his own home with natural materials.

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Sam has never looked back, and is the director of Viva Living Homes, a successful straw bale house design and construction company.

Check out his website here: http://www.vivahomes.com.au

See the AREC website here: http://www.arec.com.au/straw-bale-building-course.html