House #26 (Cuboid House)
Black = Close = Privacy
White = Open = Publicness
House #26 is a black brick-clad house that perches on the slope of a leafy suburban neighbourhood, elevated from the busy main road. The house is designed for a close-knit family with young adults living at home. The project aims to create a place for the family to enjoy living together as well as apart. Conceptually, it is conceived as two dwellings nested together sharing a double-height living space which extends out as an enlarged outdoor veranda that welcomes its visitors.
The form of the project is a simple cube that is intricately articulated to address the Arts and Crafts suburban context. Instead of responding to the context through mimicking surrounding built form, we aim to explore the ethos of art and craft making in housing through contemporary digital technology with a modest budget.
We used the classic nine-square grid as the starting point of the house. Rather than using frame and infill, we explored the internal organisation through solid and void – pushing cubes together and carving voids using architectural elements of extruded archways and the profile of stair – the typical motif of domesticity.
Like a Malevich painting, these elements are colour blocked in black and clad in brass against the flatness of the white walls. The colour black is used to mark all the private territory of the house - the bathrooms, utility and bedrooms. The kitchen and dining space with its striking black and white colour scheme form the functional heart of the house, which leads to the rear patio. A concrete retaining wall with integrated outdoor seating terraced the garden to negotiate the steep topography of the site – it also functions as a flood barrier to the dwelling.
Mass and Digital Craft:
The building envelope reinforced the solidity of the volume punctured by openings and veranda. The corner of the cube is rounded and shaped to produce an illusion of mass, ironically achieved through the single-layer brick veneer envelope. This corner detail is applied to all window reveals, and in a larger gesture, an entire corner transits from a curve wall on the ground floor and corbelled out to meet the corner of the cube - like a medieval buttress to a castle. The west elevation is articulated with more intricate mitered bricks to create shadow and depth against the evening sun. The north elevation along the driveway consists of protruding bricks which cast shadow to produce texture along the elevation throughout the day. The envelope of the cube is an exercise in creating texture as ornament.
The significance of the project lies in the integration of advance robotic technology in conventional building technology and building contract, specifically in the brickwork, concrete retaining wall and joinery. It signified a digital Arts and crafts approached to design and construction of dwelling that brings riches and joy that reflects contemporary domesticity.
The project is designed to maximise solar gain and encourage passive cross-ventilated. The brick envelope is used as an architectural device to articulate varied daylighting conditions to the interior, especially on the east and west elevations. On the east elevation, high-level square windows allow the morning sun to stream into the double-height living space. On the west elevation, the brick envelope formed a hit and missed screen which acts as a veil to bring dapple sunlight into the interior during winter. The deep veranda provides shading to the harsh summer sun. The front garden is heavily planted to buffer traffic noise from the busy road. We replaced all the existing non-native trees with native species to enhance and contribute to the ecology of the site with its proximity to a reserved corridor.