House Burch Exemplifies the Architects’ Clarity of Intent
Byron Bay, NSW, Australia
Simon Addinall, co-founder and director of Those Architects, speaks in terms of primal forms of shelter when discussing their work. “Our projects are all like caves, rather than nests, forms from which the spaces are then carved out, as opposed to an elevated layering of multiple materials”.
Such clarity of approach is evident in their latest project, House Burch in Byron Bay. A renovation and extension of an uninspiring 1980s brown brick bungalow, House Burch is at once airy and grounded. Its simple palette of white and blonde timber is utterly befitting expectations of a coastal home. Yet this is balanced by the architects’ approach of ‘carving out’ spaces from solid forms. Appropriate to the harsh climate, the solid brick walls constructed on a slab on ground shelter the inhabitants from the hot sun and cool the building via the substantial thermal mass and cross-ventilation through strategically-placed openings.
With a simple material palette of stucco render, white painted brick and natural timber, House Burch relies on the clarity expressed in the design rather than overt decorative elements or complexity of materials. The street elevation references the home’s previous 1980s life with three distinctive curves, but the overall effect is one of restraint and simplicity. Nonetheless, the project stands out by virtue of its clear, simple forms which contrast with the local architectural vernacular that tends towards the subtropical ‘nest’ typology.
“Our projects are all like caves, rather than nests, forms from which the spaces are then carved out, as opposed to an elevated layering of multiple materials”
“Connection to the ground and using the whole site is key”, explains Simon. “By lifting up off the ground, you lose that connection. We always try to keep and use that connection, even with our projects that are of a more lightweight construction there’s still the same approach, connecting to the spaces beyond and using what’s there”. Kitchen, living space and bedrooms each open on to the outdoors through openings carefully considered in relation to the path of the sun, movement of air and aspect onto the garden. While these are generous, they are deliberately proportioned so as not to add unnecessary glazing, which is both costly and energy inefficient.
This is consistent with Those Architects’ emphasis on not designing space more than is necessary. “We try to convince clients to only build what they need”, says Simon. “There can be this mentality that just because you’re allowed to build a certain amount, you should. We believe that just because you’re entitled to a certain size house doesn’t mean you actually need it”. Instead, Those Architects focus on quality of spaces and maintaining as much outdoor area on the site as possible, in some cases using the outdoors as an extension of the habitable space through careful shading to ensure at least one area of the garden is protected from the sun at all times of day.
Appropriate to the harsh climate, the solid brick walls constructed on a slab on ground shelter the inhabitants from the hot sun.
As luck would have it, the original house on the site (while aesthetically unprepossessing) had “good bones” with quality brick construction and a concrete slab. Those Architects chose to work with what was there, locating bedrooms and bathrooms in the original house, kitchen and living space in the downstairs of the addition with master bedroom upstairs. “We would have normally had everything on one ground level, but we had a lot of program to fit into the design and the planning regulations limited the amount we could physically fit”, Simon explains of the decision to locate the master bedroom on the upper level. Planning regulations also influenced the form of the new addition, which is a direct extrapolation of the local council’s setback controls, resulting in a simple geometric form just glimpsed from the street.
Stucco render proved a solution to the ugly brown original bricks, with the render delineating the 1980s portion of the home while the new addition subtly references the original through its brick walls painted white. Limestone was specified for the floors because “it’s a very subtle material that recalls the local sandy beaches, and it’s much softer than concrete underfoot”, says Simon. Brick and limestone are naturally robust materials, warmed by natural timber joinery, linen curtains and soft furnishings.
“Connection to the ground and using the whole site is key”.
From ugly 1980s brick house to a contemporary home based on passive environmental design principals, in all things, House Burch exemplifies the value of focusing on what is essential. In doing so, Those Architects achieve an unparalleled clarity that is expressed across every aspect of the design in the forms, the materials, the spaces and the program.