Designing for the Future - House A by Whispering Smith
Scarborough, WA, Australia
House A is one of three carbon-neutral homes designed by architectural firm Whispering Smith in Perth’s suburb of Scarborough.
With Houses B and C soon to follow, House A is considered an experimental prototype built in response to the shift in housing requirements that has resulted in the demand for a radical change to the housing industry.
Whispering Smith is an emerging architectural practice that was born out of the commitment to improve housing for upcoming generations through progressive problem-solving strategies to suit the modern dweller’s needs. Founding Director, Kate Fitzgerald, is also a co-founder of social enterprise Sprout Ventures. In addition to teaching and mentoring, she dedicates much of her time to community-enhancing passion projects. So much so, she states in regard to the future of the firm “Hopefully we will still be having those conversations about whether or not we’ve done too much advocacy and not enough money-making for the month.” This approach is a refreshing take on modern capitalist culture and expresses the sincerity of Whispering Smith’s ethos to support and engage with their community.
Beyond demonstrating an example of functional beauty in the built form, House A represents the creative response to a brief that is close to the hearts of many young home buyers today – a group of people who care about owning a home but do not place value in all of the same ‘bells and whistles’ as their predecessors before them. There is a desire for quality over quantity, and a whole new set of constraints in place when living in such densely populated urban environments.
Whispering Smith recognises the great expenses of owning a home in Australia for new buyers and meets that challenge with clever solutions. Kate describes “Millennials’ housing is a breath of fresh air to us. They can’t afford big houses or big land, and generally want a more sustainable and simpler life. Instead of convincing potential clients to let go of the big-house-is-better idea, we’ve got millennials pushing us to be innovative.”
At a modest 70m ², House A is described as an apartment-house hybrid, yet by implementing highly considered design features that optimize the performance of the home, the space feels airy, open and extremely livable. Each room is an extension of the last and without the presence of doors (except for the downstairs loo) the whole space flows seamlessly into the next, extending through to the sun-filled courtyard. The juxtaposition of intimate privacy within the open plan of extending lines evokes the perfect balance of calm.
Materials are allowed to speak for themselves and each natural texture is celebrated when featured amongst quiet spans of simplicity. Minimalist geometric form gives the house strength and presence that is softened by the use of humble and purpose driven material selections. From the street, House A is a contrasting element amongst its traditional neighbors whilst harmoniously absorbing and blending into the natural palette of the environment. Choosing to use recycled bricks, timbers and concrete that require no additional finishes allows the home to mature with age and become a narrative of its existence.
House A is now home to Kate and her partner, Matt, who helped largely with the construction and landscaping of the property, proudly shared to demonstrate the minimalist theory that “small can be big.” Opening doors to the public for Open House Day, they welcomed all criticism and feedback, but the couple have been pleased with the overwhelming praises people have for their unconventional home.
Kate unpacks the drive behind the design by explaining “We think there is something important in that ethos of minimalism, of making the hard choice to keep our designer ego out of the process to help us reduce the physical and environmental footprint of our houses at the same time as embracing simple, good design for a better life.”
Acknowledging and understanding the lifestyles of current home buyers is essential in the movement towards successful contemporary housing. “Since we completed House A, we’ve been speaking to lots of young people who are locked out of the housing market about how to approach housing more collectively, in groups or in other ways, and good design is the key to unlocking so many of those possibilities,” Kate shares. Connecting people with design innovation is at the forefront of Whispering Smith’s ability to push boundaries and deliver a more approachable industry for all.