is an architectural studio based in Italy and Australia.
Karri Loop House
Margaret River, Australia - 2013 Photography: First three photos from Giulio Aristide - Peter Bennetts
The large Eucalyptus found on the lot played an essential part in shaping our concept. While the clients recognized their majestic quality, they were hesitant to retain them as they believed it would be impossible to construct a generous family home on the block. However, we saw this pre-existing condition as what ‘made’ an otherwise anonymous site, and after consulting a leading arborist, we carefully designed the house to enable family life to unfold between and around those old, magnificent trees. As a result, the house bridges in between the tree-trunks, and its outline defines two open courtyards of irregular shape that embrace the trees and the surrounding landscape. A tall window in the dining area and a periscope-like skillion in the master bedroom celebrate the presence of the trees within the house, framing views of both foliage and peeling trunks in the golden afternoon light. In visual and tactile response to the trees and the surrounding forested area, the house was constructed of plywood, whose grain and texture inform interior and exterior spaces. The dark and somewhat abstract form was conceived as a complementing visual background to the surrounding vegetation to further enhance the presence of the trees. The house is fully constructed out of sustainably sourced timber, with extensive use of exposed and concealed LVLs, and different types of plywood as external cladding and interior lining and joinery. Straw-bales insulation was used in all external walls in a further effort to contain the environmental impact of construction. Though contributing strongly to the quality of the project, the trees’ shallow root systems and unstable large canopies presented a challenge to the house’s build-ability. The coordination and integration of different competencies and skills (an arborist, structural engineer, timber-prefabrication company and traditional carpentry craft-man) was crucial in being able to respond to such challenges and successfully complete the project. The footing system employed a matrix of hand-dug steel tripods raising the house off the ground to protect the tree roots and to avoid any digging. To minimize change in watering patterns, rainwater collected on the roof is taken under the house, channelled into trickling irrigation pipes and evenly fed to the roots.
ENCLOSED HOUSE I
Floreat, Western Australia - 2017 - Photography: Givlio Aristide
Our clients, a couple came to us in search of a house in which they could feel a sense of refuge; somewhere to peacefully dwell for the coming chapters of their life. Softly lit, relaxing, with a distinct presence. This part of the brief interested us; however, upon visiting the site we realized there was some reconciliation to be done. A subdivided lot with frontage onto a high-traffic road, surrounded by an unremarkable built environment and no vegetation - not exactly a place of respite. Generally speaking, the suburban fabric of Perth consists of single or double story houses, situated in the middle of their lots. In times past, the standard quarter-acre block (1,000s/m) could support this kind of residential typology: a dwelling in the landscape. However, as land sizes decreased with suburban densification, and house sizes increasing, this kind of centered lot-development results in strangled out-door spaces and wasted alleys flanking either side of the house.
Wardandi, Western Australia - 2016 - Photography: Peter Bennetts
“If we could live on the site in a tent, we would.”
The simple statement summarizes the aspirations of a young family of four for their new house to be built on the sloping forested site - an amazing, delicate, challenging site - on which they required generous spaces for everyone and forest views for each room. Their aspirations however were faced with two substantial hurdles: the fire risk and a modest budget. The bushfire risk of the site is obviously very severe and associated regulations extremely tight, limiting both design possibilities and selection of materials, as well as substantially hindering the economy of the project, in addition to the relative remoteness of the site. As we often do, we saw these constraints as the generator of our project. Conceived from the inside out, our design response proposed a continuous fire-resistant enveloping surface, which follows the terrain’s topography and frames the views of the forested landscape. Within the perimeter shell, a central family area overlooking the forest is surrounded by an array of rooms each framing the views in different directions.