by Zohra KhanMar 05, 2021
The North Perth House designed by Australian architect Nic Brunsdon consists of exciting spaces that are rich and intimate, giving rise to a simplicity that disguises complexity. The urban-infill project is positioned on a small block in the inner-city of Perth, responding to its context through simply structured spaces that vary from compressed and dark, high and washed, raw and unfinished.
Inspired by Japanese urban-infill houses that are squeezed into their plots, the small inner-urban home capitalises on its tight site of 9.5 x 23 metres. The team had to work around a challenging site with limited access along with a firm budget. Efficiencies of construction and economies of trade were important factors in handling the project.
The clients were determined to have a house constructed of concrete. However, the budget didn’t allow for an in-situ concrete build. To compromise, precast concrete panels in a restricted type and number were employed, soon taking centre stage of the design.
“This project is unique in that there are only two panel types used and these are the conceptual framework for the spaces of this home. The resultant spaces, although being conceived in restriction and limit, are incredibly varied and delightful,” shares Brunsdon. The panels were adopted both as a structural element and finishing material, resulting in innovation in housing type.
The ground floor bears one type of panel that runs east-west parallel to the street and the first floor carries the other type that runs north-south pointing to the city. The four structural panels on the first floor are held up by the four on the ground floor, interlocked like a lattice with some lateral bracing as additional support.
The ground floor’s panels distinguish levels of privacy across the property from the street. Each panel signifies a threshold heading deeper into the private life of the house - from the garage to the gallery and vestibule, then into the kitchen and living, and the garden.
The panels on the first floor have been rotated by 90 degrees, revealing faraway views back to Australia’s Perth city on the south, and introducing northern light into the bedrooms. Interesting spatial dynamics and vertical and oblique views through and out of the house are created by occurrences of overlapping panels.
One of the two types of arches accent each panel - a grand arch and a pedestrian arch. The grand arch implies more significant gestures in the house - sight from the kitchen, a sun-shade to the back, a hidden robe, and a gallery window. The pedestrian arch sustains the length and width of the site and paves way for uninterrupted movement.
On opening the front door, a continuous 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.
Timber inlay or insulated transparent polycarbonate sheet keeps the opening legible where the arch is not needed. The language of the structure speaks through its restrained material palette - raw concrete for the heavy and structural elements, timber for intimate holdings such as furniture and kitchen joinery, and translucent sheeting to diverge harsh sunlight into soft light that blankets the interior spaces.
The precast construction methodology allowed for components to be fabricated off-site, reducing the build programme, disturbance to the street and enabling clean trade scheduling. The project was also able to obtain significant budget and time savings while having legible design integrity and intuitively producing a remarkable design.
Name: North Perth House
Location: Perth, Australia
Architect: Nic Brunsdon
Project size: 195 sqm
Site size: 230 sqm
Completion date: 2019
(Text by Ankitha Gattupalli, intern at stirworld.com)