Concrete pre-cast panels are deployed to be both the finishing material and the building structure of this family home in Perth, Australia, designed by architects Nic Brunsdon. Located on a small block, the design responds by providing a variety of spaces, determined by a simple structural arrangement. Efficiencies of construction and economies of trade were key considerations in managing a tight budget and a difficult site with restricted access.
“By using this commercial construction system as the main conceptual organising principle, the project was able to gain significant budget and time savings, while maintaining legible design integrity and innovation in housing type,” the studio said.
There are only two panel types in the project; one for the ground floor running east-west parallel to the street, and one for the first floor running north-south pointing to the city. The four panels on the ground floor support the four on the first floor and interlock like a lattice, staying secured by gravity with some lateral bracing.
On the ground floor, these panels demarcate layers of privacy from the street front back towards the rear of the property, each signifying a threshold leading deeper into the private life of the house. Garage, Gallery, Vestibule, Kitchen, then Living and Garden.
On the first floor, the panels rotate 90 degrees, giving long views back to Perth city on the south side and to welcome northern light into bedrooms. Moments of overlap allow for interesting spatial dynamics and vertical and oblique views through and out of the house
Each panel is punctuated with one of two types of arch, a grand arch, and a pedestrian arch. The grand arch is provided for the more significant gestures in the house – prospect from the kitchen, a sun-shade to the rear, a hidden robe, and a gallery window. The pedestrian arch is for clean perpendicular travel.
The pedestrian arch also maintains the length and width of the site. On opening the front door, an uninterrupted sightline is presented from the front to the rear of the lot. Similarly, on arriving on the first floor, the pedestrian arch presents the full width of the house. These are Important gestures on a constrained site of 9.5 x 23 metres.
When the arch is not required, it is filled in with a timber inlay or insulated translucent polycarbonate sheet, keeping the opening legible. The material palette is deliberately restrained to these three treatments; raw concrete for the heavy and hard-working elements like the structural panels and the floor, timber for the intimate moments like furniture, kitchen joinery, balustrades and bedheads, and the translucent sheeting to mediate the hard east and west sun and provide soft light to the height of the interior spaces.
The simplicity of the design belies the complexity of the resulting spaces that are created; spaces that are compressed and dark, high and washed, raw and unfinished, and rich and intimate.