Fleming Street House by Curious Practice, warmly referred to by the architects as Vikki’s Place, is a brave yet unquestionably practical response to the diverse factors that drove its brief. Through materiality, the project is set apart from the typical residences of its area, and through considered functionality, the home delivers both in the present and into the future.
When it came to the priorities of designing Vikki’s house, it was all about her grandchildren. Downsizing from a larger house, Vikki envisioned her new home to be a place to host her family, with a connection to the outdoors and adaptability for the future. The brief sought to simplify and condense yet ensure that the select elements perform to the highest level.
Some of the physical constraints of the site were its size, at a modest 230 square metres, and its low-lying elevation, just a metre above sea level. Located near the harbour in Newcastle NSW, the flood zone requires any livable environments are to be raised 1.6 metres above ground. Curious Practice thrives on the unexpected, testing parameters to embody creativity with every design solution. “We wanted to challenge typical notions of function and how by disseminating this we could actually provide greater living amenity and flexibility within the design,” describes Warren Haasnoot, Director of Curious Practice.
When it came to the priorities of designing Vikki’s house, it was all about her grandchildren.
Capturing the natural light and connection to the outdoors is an integral part of the design. The street-facing side of the block points north, and instead of an under-utilised front yard, the home is built to the extent of the boundary with a private garden upon entry to the property. Garden interconnects the main house with the studio and garage, planted to become lush and over-grown with time as it injects into the interior through openings on the plan.
A dynamic configuration of internal spaces is delineated by change of levels and thresholds that appear to deepen through the home. An additional external living space below the main house is the result of the raised floor level from the flood zone requirements. The ability to open and close passages throughout the home ensures its ability to expand and contract as required. Warren elaborates, “the house becomes more about how the clients wants to live and occupy the space rather than a check list of rooms or program.
Capturing the natural light and connection to the outdoors is an integral part of the design.
In line with Vikki’s desire to simplify, the selection of materials is purpose driven. Textures such as plywood, concrete and rough-sawn spotted gum look beautiful in an unfinished state and require little ongoing maintenance. Masonry blocks account for the major structure of the home with a naturally raw appearance and strength to withstand flood waters. There is an honesty to each space that is defined by its functionality in both form and composition.
“The home escapes the trapping and pretence of traditional suburban housing and begins to answer things much larger than the client’s original brief,” Warren says. In this way, Vikki’s Place reflects the primary importance of timeless and sustainable design in future proofing a dwelling, creating a home that is capable of answering questions that are yet to be asked of it.