Boral Design Award 2009

November 30, 2009

Juror Andrew Mackenzie reports on this year’s award, which yielded some innovative new takes on the classic suburban residential typology.

Much like in previous years, the brief for the Boral Design Award 2009 competition called for architects to design a family home on a challenging sub-division block. Unlike its earlier incarnations however, which required architects to work primarily with one particular Boral product, this year the brief for the Design Award was expanded to allow entries to freely choose from a wider range of Boral products. This expansion of the programme proved successful, with submissions increasing threefold and the overall standard of entry making the jury’s job that much more difficult.

This year, the jury was composed of architects Drew Heath and James Russell, National Product Development Manager for Metricon Nick Drougas, Boral Sales and Marketing General Manager Glenn Simpkin and myself. Key judgement criteria remained ground in the principles of sustainable and viable building design, with a requirement that entries exhibit an innovative use of materials and push the boundaries of what a contemporary residential design can be.

In assessing the entries as a whole, the jury was impressed with their wide scope and variety. A strong commitment to sustainable outcomes was also demonstrated through thorough solar and air circulation modelling and the exploitation of brick and masonry ‘coolth’ as a key tool in generating passive cooling. Many of the entries also creatively reinvented what a typical suburban block might yield in terms of residential typology. Of particular note was an interest in the ‘age in place’ ethos of creating space for a growing family, extended family and independent living zones, and the flexible incorporation of ‘home working’.

In the end, all the winning entries demonstrated a balance between the practical issue of solving spatial and programmatic challenges and delight in the experience of habitation.

*Student winner: Lachlan Joseph*
Lachlan Joseph’s submission recognises one of the most overlooked aspects of contemporary sustainable design: that we do in fact have a rich heritage of sustainable architectural design, if only we care to look. Immediately after World War II, several Australian architects, such as Robin Boyd in Melbourne and Hugh Buhrich in Sydney, explored an architecture that was simple and robust in form, free-flowing and flexible in plan and climate sensitive in respect to solar access, air flow and passive cooling. Joseph set about designing a home that took several of its cues from this architecture from half a century ago, and applied its principles to the brief supplied. The result is a bold, honest building, enhanced by several attractive design features, including patches of vertical course work, sliding timber screens and a rhythm of timber arches that run the full length of the building and form the structure for a series of bi-fold screens. These screens allow the whole building to breathe, while generating a wash of natural light for the interior.

*Commended: Plazibat + Jemmott Architects*
The Plazibat + Jemmott submission demonstrates the sensuous potential of brick. Casting off any preconceptions of brick as a solely heritage or traditional material, this design exploits an articulated and ornate screen effect on many of its elevations, providing not only privacy but also thermal protection, allowing the fenestration behind to be operable independent of such considerations.

With the landscape descending towards the rear, the design suspends the sleeping areas as a series of volumes above the social spaces. These elevated volumes create a number of private courtyards, accessed through the house by a long running pathway.

The design expresses a graceful articulation of space and a creative use of one of the oldest building materials, to create a truly contemporary house.

*Winner: Paul Focic and Jeremy Marsden*
This project represented a successful exploration of the courtyard house type, a model common to many of this year’s submissions. Its success was driven by the architects’ embrace of the plot’s landscape features: entry at street level descends to a courtyard designed around a single existing tree, then slopes down further to a park at the rear. The tree and the park generate the project’s two most impressive features: a spacious private courtyard and a covered deck running its length, which continues through the building (allowing a generous flow of fresh air through the plan) down to the rear. Here, the landscape descends further, while the deck rises to form a lookout platform to the park beyond.

Materially, the building has a number of elements, but its most expressive component is the blue brickwork at its base, which instils firmness and heft in the building’s mass. A series of warm timber layers define the building’s more lightweight walls and screens, while terracotta shingle is used on the roof. These roof sections include generous eaves and sheltering features for the open areas, taking their cues from the shade of the Jacaranda.

In all, the jury felt this submission represented the most creative overall application of materials, in a design that responds to climate, topography and orientation, to create maximum comfort and delight for its inhabitants.

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