I do have a habit of biting off more than I can chew and then doing some back-pedalling and calling in of favours (my friends and family will be nodding/mm-hmmming here). Take creating the challenge of shooting and writing a weekly story from remote and regional areas across an entire continent when I live in a tiny corner of said continent, managing to be at one of the farthest possible points from Australia’s main population bases. But I’m 9 months in and it’s happening, with the help of some similarly impassioned people and this journal is growing in size and scope. I do have a dirty little secret and that is that I would like Design Satellite to become a magazine, online and in print, so I’ll thank you now in advance for forwarding this and spruiking it to other like minded friends on the way.
From today on Design Satellite, I’ll be interspersing my regional and remote stories with some interesting projects that I’ve been shooting in my ‘day job’, some of which may not be regional, but are nonetheless art and design related. Which brings me to a project I photographed recently that has won a Western Australian Residential Architecture Award at the Australian Institute of Architects Awards a few weeks ago, by architects and husband and wife team Yun Nie Chong and Patrick Kosky. The shoot was not so much ‘day job’, as many photographers will know, as shooting houses is more aptly described as ‘dawn job’, however the awkward time frame was offset by the friendly and collaborative approach both Yun Nie and Patrick were willing to take to get these images, along with the post-production prowess of Lock Morley.
The Fremantle home is the architects’ own, so without the negotiations of an external client, risks and rewards are plentiful and 10 months in, this young family couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Whilst gaining lots of archi-speak accolades, word on the street (where I hang out and wax lyrical from) is enormously positive. Everyone who walks by ‘ooohhs and ahhs’ at this house, the solidity and familiarity of the recycled brick is a comfort and the building, though striking, feels ‘terrace housey’ in scale, so it isn’t imposing. Fremantle locals love this house, nearby shop owners are still gushing and this all points to the broader cultural climate where Fremantle was represented in 10 of the 14 AIA Awards categories this year, as stated proudly on the Fremantle Mayor’s blog . As a winner of the award last month, the building will now progress to the National Awards which will be announced this November. So, whilst my AFL credentials are dismal, I will still be able to yell ‘Carn Freo!’.
The success of building a new home depends alot on the block it sits on. How did you come to find this little beauty and was Fremantle always on the cards?
We had been looking for a block after working out that we might be able to finance a modest house on a small block. The closer to the coast and Freo town centre the better. A colleague in Patrick’s office – Ryan Brown – recommended this block and straight away we saw it had the right ingredients for us. Close to Freo and beach, good orientation, street frontage, artistic graffiti and surroundings with a distinct urban character – and at 250m2 it was the smallest block that was possible in this area’s zoning and therefore just affordable.
We chose Fremantle to be our home 10 years ago because it was close to the coast, urban, rich in character. We both work in Fremantle and having such short commutes to work on foot or bike is great. Fremantle has a diverse, engaged community and its good to be part of that. Maintaining that social diversity will be very important to the identity of Fremantle as it evolves.
Were there any unusual challenges to the design process?
Probably the biggest design challenge was overcoming what are often problems with terrace houses – poor ventilation and lack of natural light to the middle of the house. We approached this by strategically locating courtyards, windows, double height spaces and skylights. We wanted to create a new prototype of the terrace house – one that breathed and was full of natural light -while also being a house that was highly responsive to its site and orientation.
One of the challenges of the site was that it only allowed single storey development. We really needed to have an upper level in order to fit a modest family house on the site and have some meaningful outdoor space. We proposed a kind of enlarged loft and dormer window which were permissible under the scheme. The planners at the council weren’t keen but we had great support from the elected members. They were very open to ideas of sustainable urban infill and approved the design. Many of them came and met us on site on a Sunday afternoon to discuss our proposal – it was the coalface of democracy in action. Fremantle is lucky to have such a progressive bunch of elected members at the moment.
Other challenges included working full time, raising two kids under three and designing and going through the build of your own house while living with the in laws (who were very supportive, we might add). We had a great builder, Michael Bradshaw, who was very collaborative in his approach.
What guided the use of materials for the house?
The material palette of the house design is predominantly recycled brick, timber and zincalume cladding. These materials reference the industrial architecture found in South Fremantle. The brick walls form a base to the building, while the zincalume clads the upper portion referencing the deep roofs of nearby warehouse buildings.
The use of recycled brick was pioneered by Brian Klopper in Fremantle in the 70s and 80s so it has a strong sense of place. Also, it is a sustainable material choice with a low embodied energy. This complements some of the other sustainable aspects of the house – PV’s, below ground water tanks and solar hot water.
Within the house raw plywood (for warmth) and concrete floors are coupled with joinery elements of form-ply and crisp white laminate. The joinery was built by local Fremantle craftsman Dave Eastwood from Raw Edge Furniture, who we really enjoyed working with.