An Exploration of Concrete and Context - North Avoca House by Savio Parsons Architects
North Avoca, NSW, Australia
As an affront to the typical residential coastal offering, the approach to North Avoca stemmed from a motivation to embrace the site’s many obstacles and create a contextually-responsive architecture.
Savio Parsons’ North Avoca project represents a passion for engagement with a larger dialogue extending beyond pure aesthetics and form making. Their approach is driven by a larger holistic and responsive methodology, questioning typified architectural responses. According to co-founding director Anthony Parsons, North Avoca became “a case study motivated by an architectural condition that is alarmingly evident across the suburban landscape” in which beautiful yet challenging sites deemed too difficult for project home construction then result in architecture that is awkward and unconsidered.
Savio Parsons, in collaboration with builder Gordon Haggerty Constructions, resolved to give the existing structure (originally built in 2007) a new lease of life. Anthony describes the original house as “responding abysmally to its site, with no connection to the land, addressing orientation appallingly on its angular block with six neighbours.” He also adds, “there was no consideration of context.” Resisting the impulse to demolish, the prevailing bones of the home were used as a launch pad for, as Anthony explains, “additional programme designed to invite natural light and ventilation into the home.”
“A case study motivated by an architectural condition that is alarmingly evident across the suburban landscape.”
Through a series of well-considered methodologies, and as a result of identifying the strengths and opportunities within the site, Savio Parsons’ approach was clear. Anthony describes their concept as “an evolution from its existing condition” where “a need to protect the existing spaces from the summer sun and form a dialogue with the existing form” aided in sculpting their formal response. A revised analysis of the internal planning ensued, and externally, Anthony says, “a reconstituted timber ‘dress’ was conceived, affording shade and privacy, while clothing the building.”
“A reconstituted timber ‘dress’ was conceived, affording shade and privacy, while clothing the building.”
With all of their work, Gemma Savio explains that “we are very minimal and like to see ourselves as champions of material, always expressing space and architecture.” She continues, “for any project, it’s about selecting one material and expressing it. In the case of North Avoca, it was concrete. We see every project as an opportunity to express and play with materiality.” Beautifully composed, the resulting approach to materiality throughout is as incredibly well executed as it is honest. The stripped-back palette of concrete, timber and glass does not allow for a multitude of imperfections in its process, but instead celebrates the inherent beauty of the materials.
Creating a series of spaces that invite natural light (in all its guises) into the internal spaces and courtyard connecting elements was key. Anthony says, “contrary to the assumption that the project is purely an exercise in form making, the design is equally concentrated on the interior.” He continues, “the dominant external screening element that wraps the house also generates varied atmospheres within the building through filtering light and changing shadows.” The combination of the repeated external motif together with the approach to landscape (the majority of which is for food production) allows for a softening of edges and less formal transition between the built and open, solid and void relationships.
As a beautifully curated celebration of what drives Savio Parsons as a practice, North Avoca is an intriguing bridge between rescuing an existing build and appropriating context. Savio Parsons’ impassioned approach, empathetic sensibilities to space and a realistic approach to sustainability are what enable them to see opportunities such as those within this coastal home, which could, in turn, help inspire a generation of repair instead of demolition.