Living Rooms
Event Feature
Canberra, ACT, Australia

Words Rose Onans

O’Connor House by de Rome Architects. This unique custom-build home was commissioned by an owner-builder client to replace their existing dwelling on the site.

The 2017 Design Canberra Festival is your chance to peek into the living rooms of some of Canberra’s most acclaimed houses. The Living Rooms event is a twist on the concept of the open house, using the homes as spaces for pop-up displays of works for sale by some of Canberra’s finest makers and designers.

The first designs for Canberra were created by architect Marion Mahony Griffin with her husband and architectural partner Walter Burley Griffin in 1911. Mahony Griffin’s legacy lives on in the city she designed, and this year the Living Rooms event will celebrate women in design, with the second week of the Living Rooms devoted to architecture, design and craft by women.

Left: O’Connor House by de Rome Architects. The house is typically clad in black stained shadowclad timber, with some elements of brick work. Feature timber battens highlight the entry passage and outdoor areas. Right: Boomerang House by Joanna Nelson Architects. A 1960s house on an elevated suburban site in Canberra.

Homes by Sarah Lebner (Light House Architecture & Science), Janet Thompson, Catherine Townsend, Jessica DeRome, Shannon Battisson (The Mill Architecture) and Joanna Nelson will be open on November 12TH, 19th and the 26th between 10am and 4pm.

The Living Rooms feature pop-up exhibitions of design and craft by Canberra makers some include Alison Jackson, Anne Masters, Phoebe Porter, Sarah Murphy, Richilde Flavell, Fran Romano, Bev Hogg, Alice Sutton, Harriet Schwarzrock, Angela Bakker and Kristie Rea will all be involved.

Interior of O’Connor House by Jessica de Rome. The spacious dwelling is single storey, whilst managing to maintain a large, well-orientated garden which spills out from the living areas.

The homes are all very different, ranging from contemporary modernism to a heritage renovation, yet each represents the commitment to innovation for which Canberra has become renowned. Sustainability is a key field of innovation in architecture today and is addressed in a variety of original ways by each of the houses.

Jessica DeRome’s design for the O’Connor House aims to balance unique design with a strong commitment to sympathetically blend with the streetscape. This results in a single-story building with spaces that support flexible use, keeping the footprint of the house efficient.

Despite limited north frontage, careful planning means each room has a northern aspect, designed to maximise passive solar gain in winter, while eaves minimise solar access in summer. Contemporary requirements for light and space, meanwhile, are cleverly managed through a pop-up roof in the kitchen, which amplifies the space and delivers light and drama, while maintaining the single-story presence from the street.

Rush House by Townsend + Associates Architects who is regarded as one of the leading architectural firms in the Canberra context and has been awarded fourteen ACT Chapter RAIA Architectural Awards and a National Robin Boyd Award for Housing (Commendation).

In contrast to this utterly contemporary home, Boomerang House by Joanna Nelson is a renovation of a 1960s house on an elevated suburban site. The renovation addresses sustainability by retaining as much as possible of the considerable embodied energy of the original house. Numerous original elements are retained, including the balustrades and the concrete driveway, which was broken up and re-laid in the front garden as a retaining wall. By rotating the new rear walls at 30 degrees to the main front wall, however, the spaces are oriented directly to the north in line with passive-solar design principles.

These are just two of the many significant houses by Canberra’s leading women architects that will be open for the Living Rooms event. Over 100 years since Mahony Griffin put forward the plans for Australia’s new capital, women in Canberra are continuing to excel in architecture. The 2017 DESIGN Canberra festival is a fantastic chance to experience their work, and see the important role of women in making Canberra such a successful city for design.

Boomerang House by Joanna Nelson Architects. This house is an example of the short-lived mid-1960s ‘Boomerang Style’. While low and elegant from the street, the house loomed awkwardly over its tapered and sloping rear garden. The principal architectural idea was to retain the considerable embodied energy – material and cultural – of the original house and create a strong counterpoint in the design of the new spaces.

The Mill by Shannon Battisson. Polished concrete floors soak up ample natural light and contrast beautifully with the warm, textural tones of the exposed red brick walls.

Published 31 October, 2017
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