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Pecha Kucha

June 14, 2011

I was asked to particpate in a recent Pecha Kucha talk at Carriage Works.I presented a few architect ‘heros’ whose projects interest me, plus a few of my own projects.

1. Alvaro Siza has the ability to create undeniably modern buildings that belong naturally to the site. Almost capturing the atmosphere of the land itself, and even suggest that perhaps the site was somehow incomplete prior to his building being in place.

2. Siza’s buildings are poetic and pwerful, but restrained and patient, even difficult to date, This idea of timelessness coupled with the sense of inevitability; the sense that it couldn’t be improved or bettered in anyway is at the core of his appeal.

3. This is Tony Fretton’s Lisson Gallery in London. It is a carefully considered contextual building that responds thoughtfully to its surroundings, being gentle, yet modern. Fretton talks about the facade being made up of the activities within and importantly the reflections of the street, neighbourhood and the city.

4. This is the upper lawn pavillion by Peter and Alison Smithson, a beautiful little weekend house they designed for themselves. The modesty of such a project appeals to me. The scale and proportions, carefully considered details, make it feel as though it has been reduced right down to the essentials.

5. This is a  project by Maarten Van Severen, who is perhaps better known for his furniture or work for OMA. This project is the reworking of a family home in Belgium. I simply love this image – perhaps it is a little severe but I think it is perfectly balanced and beautifully executed. It cuts open and exposes the innerworkings of the house, connecting it with the landscape.

6. This is a house in Tokyo by Ryue Nishizawa. I am easily seduced by the images of Nishizawa’s houses and intrigued by his ideas about living. He challenges the traditional notions of privacy and the organisation of space to reflect new values which promote vibrancy and a richness of life in the streets and the city.

7. Vini, a little restaurant in Surry Hills was our first project. Constrained by a budget and tight site we reduced the scope right down to what was necessary. A functional block of joinery at the rear of the tenancy that concealed the kitchen and stored the supplies of food and wine. It was never meant to be about display – this storage wall is  active throughout service and is integral to the working of the restaurant.

8. We expanded into the only space available which was the loading dock filled with services, ducting etc. We needed to create a room within a room and eventually settled on a shipping container- not to make any particular statement, but simply because it was cheap and it fit into the small space.

9. This is another restaurant called Berta we finished last year. The project’s scope was considerably more than at Vini but we continued with the theme of the working wall of food and wine. The site looked onto a city laneway, a gritty and neglected part of the city, that we wanted to connect strongly with but were not allowed to open up onto.

10. The detailing of windows is crucial to the attempt at reducing this separation between inside and out to the bare minimum. The window frames are externally mounted and so not visible from within the restaurant, allowing the brick columns to turn the corner, the profile of their unevenness is uninterrrupted by a frame and hopefully blurs this boundary.

11. This project involved the re-design of a 38sqm, one bedroom apartment in a Harry Seidler Building in Potts Point. We designed and this for ourselves to accommodate a growing family. The brief was to create a separate sleeping space for our younger daughter, provide more living space and solve our issue with storage. The idea was to reduce it down to the essentials of living.

12. This shows the bed platform for my daughter which is separated from the main space by the wardrobe. Our bed slides in and out from underneath. The design relies on the reorganisation of spaces to serve more than one purpose but does so simply and without fuss. 

13. This shows the kitchen, the main shelves dissolve at this end into the bench and pantry. Perhaps it was lessons learnt at Vini but we wanted to be surrounded by our things – books, food, toys, booze etc – all things essential to living, but again it was never contrived or purely about display.

14. This project is the renovation of a Surry Hills house, the only house on the street of terraces that sits back from the front boundary. This blank front facade conceals the entry court and main outdoor space for the house. the composition of this wall attempts to pick up on the proportions and rhythms of the neighbouring terraces, and the sliding door becomes one of those panels.

15. This is the entry court and the front room contains the kitchen. Designed for a chef and his family, this is the most used room in the house. Again there is a modesty to the project, we added no floor space, simply reconfiguring and improving the existing condition. 

16. This is our biggest project to date and involved the joining of these two terraces in Paddington to create a single home. The brief was to create a comfortable and modern home for a big, busy family and to make it seamless – they did not want to feel like they were living between two houses.

17. We wanted to design a modern house that was heavy and grounded, not foreign in the context. We wanted the new house to be a natural extension of the existing. In terms of materials, the new brickwork is a continuation of the existing brickwork. We hoped to produce a house that would be difficult to date and one that would get better with age. 

18. Internally, it is difficult to determine which walls are existing and which are new. The spaces are warm but calm, only a few materials are used. The lower level living areas open up onto the garden while the upper levels containing the bedrooms are private and quiet.

19. The same organizing element both formally and experientially is the void above the dining room. It allows easy communication between levels, important for the family, as well as uniting the generous sized house. The natural light and views from these upper levels are carefully controlled.

20. We approached this project in the same way as our smaller projects and interiors. The idea is to only what we need to do and try not to to get carried away with endless opportunities that a project presents, being careful and showing restraint. The ideas of modesty and appropriateness combined with a sense of living well is at the core of what we are trying to do.

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