EXPLORING THE POTENTIAL OF RESIDENTIAL DESIGN

  • THE SOLUTION
  • THE PRACTICE

Globally, there has been a lot of talk about the Missing Middle with urban planners and governments trying to find the right balance between density, affordability and community in suburban areas. But what is this Missing Middle and how do we make the most of the potential it holds?

Essentially, the Missing Middle refers to low-rise medium density developments in walkable neighbourhoods. ‘Missing’ because they have not been allowed under existing planning regulations and ‘Middle’ because they sit between detached single-family homes in the outer ring and mid-to-high-rise apartment buildings in the inner city.

The potential is in opening up suburbs to more than just duplexes, subdivisions and battle-axes. The idea is to create liveable communities for a diverse demographic, catering to the increasing demand for multi-generational solutions as well as flexible workforces, both of which look towards community connections for successful living spaces.

While, across Australia, planning legislators have explored introducing this housing typology, it is still predominantly unheard of. Though in Western Australia, the City of Fremantle has recently introduced a policy called ‘Freo Alternative’, which accommodates this Missing Middle.

Under the policy, a 600sqm block can accommodate up to three separate dwellings, provided these are no larger than 120sqm and occupy no more than 30% of the site area. Car spaces are limited to one per dwelling and one mature tree must be retained (or planted) on the site. These ‘developments’ also need to pass the scrutiny of the City’s Design Advisory Committee, meaning their design is important.

The ambition is for a greener and inherently more community-focussed framework for the densification of our suburbs, as compared with the ‘battle-axe’ subdivisions infamous for their extensive paved driveways, poor connection to the street and neighbours, and often compromised open space.

In considering the possibilities for architects, developers and homeowners – HouseLab and Philip Stejskal Architecture (PSA) have offered up a potential Concept Space to see what the Missing Middle could look like.

The proposal looks at three dwellings on a 750sqm block, arranged around a centralised communal space, each with access to a private garden and a first-floor terrace.

In approaching this concept, the question was asked: how can you offer people, accustomed to the autonomy of the quarter acre block, a gentle introduction to density?

The answer resides in offering people choice. Designing a micro-community that can be engaged with on the individual’s own terms. A private living space with the infrastructure necessary to allow this community to flourish.

By pooling the available open space into a single, collective area, oriented to the north and connected to the street, a cradle is created in which community is nurtured. It gathers certain physical components that are commonly effective in bringing people together – a fireplace, a barbeque, a water fountain, places to sit in and out of the sun.

Blurring the edge of this space with a continuous timber structure, a planted trellis, carport and shade solutions are created, fitted with pivoting screens that can be angled for privacy and solar ingress. For newcomers to a denser way of living, this is key as privacy is a common concern in more traditional apartment living, as is security when your home opens up to a shared outdoor area, somewhat open to the street. In addressing these concerns, the space still offers residents the feeling of a safe haven where others are nearby if they are needed – of great importance to the ageing population.

This band defines a loose threshold between public and private; a buffer between the communal and the individual. An outdoor area with a retractable roof that extends the inside outward, and the outside inward. When closed, the shutters offer respite and weather protection. When open, they provide connection.

The roof is retracted in winter to admit welcome rays, and extended to provide shelter at other times. Lighting is also a key component. Offering visibility and security, it also defines boundaries between public and private space in the evening and night time.

The heart of the conceptual space is created through the fourth edge of the communal area, defined by a planted wall and chain-link fence that will green with time, extending over and across to form a central shade structure.

This is where kids’ birthday parties take place, the work-from-homers take their phone calls, the weekend steak is cooked to perfection, residents meet for a beer after work… It’s a place where you like to be with people you want to be with. But, of course, you can choose to retire to your own personal retreat at any time.

New technologies in lighting and appliances make this concept even more appealing. Portable lighting means any area can be illuminated, rather than fixed in-ground lights that are generally used to define walkways. Access to instant hot and cold water outdoors means meeting the neighbours for a cuppa doesn’t mean inviting them into your home, and a parent doesn’t need to leave the kids unattended when they get thirsty.

The important thing about the Freo Alternative’s limits on footprint is it creates room for a communal garden, children’s sand pit, swings and a patch of lawn to throw a picnic on. Again, it is about choice and using space the way we want to use it.

An open carport offers connection with the street and broader community. It also offers another covered space for gatherings when the cars are parked on the street. We imagine, for a few nights a year, this space could be taken over by a community outdoor cinema or street-wide game of bingo.

While this Concept Space is focused on creating common ground for residents, the point is flexibility. It’s not prescribed, rather open to every possibility and human mood.

This flexibility is made possible through the curated use of a number of specific products, which are listed below:

  • 1.Retractable awnings – fitted to the timber trellis to provide year-round use of the interstitial zone between public and private.
  • 2. Portable light frames – charged in a central location and then mobile to accompany conversation, a game of cards, pen to paper after dark.
  • 3. ZIP hot / chilled water unit – located in the heart of the communal area, intended to bring people together over a cup of coffee… a community café.

Philip Stejskal Architecture (PSA) is a Fremantle-based practice centred on the creation of thoughtful and engaging spaces.

Since it was established in 2009, the practice has produced a widely recognised body of work across a variety of building types, with a strong focus on residential architecture.

Prior to founding the practice, Philip built his experience working for a range of firms in Perth, Darwin and London. Here he gained skills in delivering medium to large scale projects for clients in educational, not-for-profit and hospitality sectors.

Of particular note was his time in Australia’s far north. The intensity of climate instilled in Philip a deep sensibility for place and environment, an influence which now pervades the design methodology of the practice, and allows them to create uniquely tailored projects.

While rigorous passive solar design informs every PSA project, the team is equally well versed in active environmental technologies and has successfully delivered a Greenstar rated building.

Whether designing a new home for a family or a building for the wider community, the core considerations remain consistently centred around the human occupant. This approach has seen the practice awarded at both local and national levels, and continues to pay dividends in the way of positive feedback from satisfied clients.

  • THE SOLUTION
  • THE PRACTICE

Apartment Living Redefined

CONCEPTSPACES –Eye in the Sky

There has been a lot of talk about improving the design and construction of apartments to provide a better living environment. Government guidelines have been drawn up but in reality, very little has changed. These spaces need to cater for changing demographics and usage. For example 25% of Australian are calling home “the office” and we need design solutions for these quantum shifts. We also want a healthier place to live and the opportunity to connect with others. This was our challenge to Sydney-based Matt Woods and here is his response.

‘PRIVACY DOES NOT HAVE TO MEAN ENCLOSED OR INTROVERT. A HOUSE CAN HAVE DIFFERENT FACES IN ONE’

YOSHIHARU TSUKAMOTO

Drawing inspiration from the well-founded principles of Japanese architecture (obscured boundaries; framed views; borrowed scenery; flexible spaces; deep eves; and natural materials) the interior design for the proposed CONCEPT SPACE responds to the challenge of ”redefine apartment living”.

Obscured boundaries are achieved via the extension of interior finishes from inside to out, both via timber ceiling to soffit and via the extension of the concrete floor from dining to garden. Internal views are framed, with operable doors on the northern elevation opening up onto the private terrace and communal garden. Facing south, frameless sash windows reveal neighbouring views and allow buoyancy driven cross ventilation in the warmer months. During colder weather or for increased privacy, a solid and retractable sliding timber wall is revealed from within the southern cavity wall.

In addition to creating a warm, sustainable and homely environment, the focus has been targeted on the flexibility within the kitchen and dining rooms. There is a series of modular joinery components, which can be easily changed and adapted to the changing end user.

Cantilever created a kitchen that continues the theme of modularity with their Tableau system. While this system can be configured to a much larger footprint, in this case the joinery elements were scaled back to ensure maximum functionality and connection with the rest of the room but also providing an aligned style. The tapware solution was selected specifically to reduce the reliance on additional appliances such as kettles, as the Zip Hydrotap provides instant boiling water, as well as chilled and regular tap water. This also allows for maximum use of space. The inset wine rack illuminated with LED strip lighting adds to the design elements, as does the Ross Gardam light.

To complete the kitchen efficiency, a Miele TwoInOne induction cooktop was specified. By including the extractor into the cooktop it removed the need for a wall mounted range hood or overhead extractor, providing more storage space.

Without a doubt, the kitchen is the heart of every home. As such, the physical heart of this home is a “modular pedestal” that inherits the ability to adapt and change through a series of customizable joinery elements. These customizable components are discreetly hidden within the space and allow the kitchen and dining spaces to increase in size and capacity according to the changing needs of an individual family and the community in which they are a part of.

In its “smallest” footprint, the modular pedestal can be reduced to an occasional table and almost disappears into the kitchen setting, while at its most grandiose it is a dining table capable of catering to the entire CONCEPT SPACE community. The foldable dining chairs can be stored in the wall unit to align with the smallest footprint.

Further multi-functionality is introduced via an operable ceiling screen, which has the ability to fold down over the kitchen joinery to transform the space into an entertaining or relaxing area. When the screen is deployed it reveals a unique and impressive dome light, the ‘Eye in the Sky’ that anchors the space but isn’t the sole source of lighting, so it allows the dome light to be used a centre piece. The screens are also used to provide a clear delineation between living and working spaces. With the ever evolving nature and demand of flexible workspaces in the home, it was important to create a sense of privacy for either a work-from-home option or a study nook. The work chair was an important consideration as it had to fit the aesthetic and functional requirements of multiple users. The Herman Miller Cosm chair fulfills these two requirements. The chair also has a space where it can be stored under the stairs, to enhance the transformation of the space. Ultimately, the screens can both discreetly shield the kitchen while also creating an increased level of privacy for those seeking it.

In keeping with the transformation, the workspace can expand and contract to suit the work-from-home solution but also to provide additional space and style for entertaining, as it doubles as a bar station seamlessly.

Dematerialization has been a key-driving factor within the design, and all elements have been reduced to their bare essentials. All timbers are specified as FSC certified with a preference for recycled and the paint finish throughout is low VOC. All light fittings are designed as LED and every material has been assessed for its embodied water and energy content.

This flexibility is made possible through the curated use of a number of specific products, which are listed below:

  • 1. Retractable timber screens–providing away to transform the CONCEPT SPACE.
  • 2. Cantilever’s Tableau Modular Kitchen System–allowing a functional approach with an aligned design style.
  • 3. ZIP’s Hydrotap hot / chilled / sparkling water unit –located in the heart of the communal area, intended to provide maximum functionality within the kitchen environment.
  • 4. Herman Miller’s Cosm chair –selected to provide the performance required for the changing nature of work environments, and the beauty that aligns with the space.
  • 5. Miele TwoInOne induction cook top –allowing greater storage space within the kitchen unit.
  • 6. Ross Gardam light –Nebulae’s anodised gold wall canopy provides a beautiful base for the light to mount onto the wall and houses the 11Wdimmable LED module.

Killing Matt Woods was born in 2009 with the intention of creating kick ass interiors, doing their part to reduce the heavy burden the construction industry places on the environment. An industrial designer by training with postgraduate Sustainable Architecture background, over the last 10 years Woods has created award winning designs for a diverse range of industries including hospitality, retail, workplace and residential projects.

‘Extrapolating the idea of sustainability to basically mean “no more new shit” Matt Woods has a design stratagem like no other. Each project is beautiful, authentic, and entirely of its own evolution. Reworking found and repurposed objects, materials and finishes through his unique and very serious design thinking, amazing sense of style and commitment to delivering amazing interiors, a Woods interior is like no other. Moreover each project conceptually envelops sustainability from a new and ever expanding set of criteria that goes well beyond the solar mitigation of most. ’Gillian Seriser, Inside Magazine, April 2017

  • THE SOLUTION
  • THE PRACTICE

EMBEDDED ENTERTAINING

Cooking, making, sharing and eating form the glue in our lives. We are nourished physically, socially and emotionally through food –both via its origins, its rituals and its traditions. We come together.

We come together to talk, to share, to bear each other’s burdens over good food and wine. Food connects us to the past, present and future. We come together.

Across many cultures and places, the making of food is a shared experience, involving groups small and large. Making, when paired with cultivating vegetables, herbs, fruit, and honey, becomes a potent shared experience. Traditions and legacy are passed down and through to new generations and to friends, for the enjoyment of all. We come together.

Our kitchen / garden concept ‘Come Together’ brings a self-sustaining edible garden up close to a kitchen that is flexible and robust, such that the kitchen becomes embedded in the landscape. It is designed to allow for varying levels of enclosure and opening, depending on the seasons, the gathering size, the occasion, and the modes of cooking. Cooking practices and rituals mark out place and time, and by turning its focus to the garden, the spatial design of the kitchen enshrines a specific, focused experience.

An oversized inside/outside worktable – sectioned and running on tracks for flexibility of use – forms the centre piece of the space. Completely open underneath for the storage of stools, baskets, boxes and other containers to store harvested food, the table accommodates intimate family dinners, large noisy gatherings and casual BBQs with friends.

A generous sink bench has direct access to the herb garden, with a drying rack for herbs and fruits above and a special draining bench for cleaning freshly harvested vegetables. The simple but incredibly functional Zip Tap All-In-One Celsius Arc delivers literally all the home water needs from a single tap; boiled, chilled and sparkling filtered water, plus hot and cold washing up water. This not only allows more room for food preparation, it also brings a healthier focus to the kitchen. With the sparkling water option, it reduces the need for bought juices and fizzy drinks.

The south-western entry to the space is flanked by the food storage hub (fridge and pantry), with a Miele oven stack opposite the large worktable. All Miele items were selected to be as seamless as possible with the joinery, obsidian black with no handles. We included multiple oven options for different food preparations, which is in keeping with a flexible cooking space. The vacuum sealer drawer is to allow for sealing fresh foods, portioning and marinating foods, which is ideal for larger families or even downsized couples.

An array of sliding and bi-folding doors and largegas-lift awning and bi-folding windows allow for various combinations of openings and circulation flows, paired with highlight louvered windows for natural ventilation and lighting. A Flow Hive is positioned in view of the Kitchen, near the fruit trees, herbs and vegetables to encourage pollination and steady honey production.

Materials have been selected for their durability and aging qualities – the oversized worktable has a copper surface with sturdy steel legs for stability and leanness. Appliances have been selected for their capacity to stack and seamlessly blend with the design, giving priority to the kitchen/garden space and its broadened functional scope.

Outdoor cooking is embraced with the integrated Escea fireplace / outdoor cooking facility, allowing preparation to occur outside and for food to be readily cooked and enjoyed in the casual outdoor area with minimal movement through and around the space.

The kitchen and garden are articulated by strong, hardwearing materials – off form concrete and recycled timber boards bring timeless and simple construction to the articulation of the space. This extends into the spatial arrangements with the worktable framed externally by bleacher-style sitting steps, integrated with the garden beds and a patio space that overlaps with the barbecuing area.

The axial view from the table is formed by a row of climbing plants along what might be a garden wall or indeed a boundary fence, as if often the case in limited suburban blocks. A trellis style pergola that would allow the growing of grapevines or similar provides shade and a transitional signal to the temporality of the outdoor eating area. The design encourages participation and occupation of the garden.

Kitchen and garden come together.

Bijl Architecture is an ambitious Sydney based practice seeking to challenge the status quo. We believe that our homes, schools and places of gathering are an expression of our communities’ collective values and hopes, for now and for the future. Through our work, we make these aspirations resolutely life - affirming and real.

Led by founding director and principal architect Melonie Bayl - Smith, Bijl Architecture is guided by the belief that architecture must improve our comfort and connections: to each other, to ourselves, and to future generations. This belief focuses the renowned energy and determination of our tight - knit studio team on the daily pursuit of these aims with and for all of our clients.

We’re also unapologetic opportunists. We see latent potential, creating designs that bring enduring surprise and delight. As a result, Bijl Architecture’s work has been published far and wide, winning design and industry awards along the way.

Our residential projects are borne from an empathic, deeply personal expression of our clients’ vision; our educational and public works invest in the potential of architecture to serve people through advancing pedagogy, industry and ideas.

We raise our voices tirelessly to progress the profession in the interests of our shared legacy, for students and practitioners, and the public alike.

Most of all, our architecture is impeccably detailed, grounded in economic mindfulness, perceptive, and proudly Bijl – alive with light, character and finesse; sometimes mercurial, always striving.

HouseLab ConceptSpaces team: Melonie Bayl-Smith, Andrew Lee, Giles Gibbins, Rachael O’Toole.

  • About

Concept Spaces is a new HouseLab initiative.

A series of ingenious and cutting-edge residential concept spaces created by some of Australia’s leading architects and interior designers.

Designed to inspire industry professionals and homeowners to the possibilities of residential design, we’re also solving design and construction challenges being faced with growing and ageing populations with varying needs.

Each space will explore the possibilities of living in different ways in modern day Australia. These spaces are brought to life through a series of state-of-the-art architectural visualizations.

We hope Concept Spaces sparks the imagination to create spaces that are loved to be lived in.