A Contemporary Concrete Bunker – Perfect Storm by Killing Matt Woods
Sydney, NSW, Australia

Photography Pablo Veiga
Styling Madeline McFarlane
Build Green Anvil Co.
Words Rose Onans
Issue 02 Cover Web
FEATURED IN THE LOCAL PROJECT PUBLICATION - ISSUE 02
The Local Project print publication was created to inspire, inform, entertain and engage through exclusively curated content.
Published in February 2020, Issue 02 of The Local Project features just under 300 pages of photographs, interviews, articles and profiles focusing on contemporary architecture and design. Printed on exceptionally high-quality paper stock, The Local Project is designed to be read and enjoyed over time.
A Contemporary Concrete Bunker Perfect Storm By Killing Matt Woods Sydney, Nsw, Australia Image 03

A single, brutalist-inspired double-height volume, conceived of as a concrete bunker, Perfect Storm by Killing Matt Woods is a play on scale and materiality that explores juxtaposition and contradiction.

“Brutalism has long been my favourite architectural movement,” reflects Matt Woods. “Like brutalism, I’m always pushing my projects to be honest in their materiality and I am always reducing their architectural elements to the bare essentials.” But while this has been a running thread that informs all his work, until Perfect Storm, the opportunity had never arisen to explore verbatim such a raw brutalist aesthetic. This changed when long-time collaborator, builder Sam O’Flaherty, of Green Anvil Construction, and his wife Lou approached Matt about the re-design of their home, a small apartment in the inner-Sydney suburb of Camperdown. “Every few months we would discuss potential directions of the renovation, until one day Sam suggested the idea of a concrete bunker!” recalls Matt.

Designer Matt Woods (pictured left) in the apartment, which was conceived of during the design process as a concrete bunker.
A Contemporary Concrete Bunker Perfect Storm By Killing Matt Woods Sydney, Nsw, Australia Image 04

For Sam and Lou, this marked a departure from their original ideas, which were inspired by their love of Atelier Ace’s LA Downtown and Palm Springs hotels. Eventually, the couple moved away from this aesthetic, and Sam remembers, “I woke up one morning with this thought of creating a homogenous concrete bunker and Lou, being the supportive person that she is, agreed to proceed. I rang Matt and explained our new vision to which he responded: ‘Fuck yeah’. A few days later he completed some 3D renderings for us with a single question: ‘Are you sure?’.”

“Like brutalism, I’m always pushing my projects to be honest in their materiality and I am always reducing their architectural elements to the bare essentials.”

While all parties’ shared enthusiasm for the idea of a brutalist concrete bunker ensured that the direct hotel reference was not pursued in the final design, Perfect Storm is nevertheless a hotel-like place of retreat. “The design was very much a reflection of how Sam and Lou wanted to live. They are a busy couple, both running their own successful small businesses. They wanted a place that they could escape their busy work lives and simply switch off,” Matt says.

Builder and client Sam O’Flaherty (pictured right), of Green Anvil Constructions, and Matt Woods are long-time friends and collaborators.

Key to achieving this sense of calm is the design’s pared-back, determined simplicity. While the small size of the apartment acted as a constraint in one sense, in another it worked to the design’s advantage, as within a single defined volume the effect of the design language, characterised by brutalist ideals of utilitarianism, austerity and geometric forms, is heightened. “Striking the right balance between a ‘cave-like bunker’ and a liveable home was one of the principal challenges. Luckily Sam and Lou not only wanted to redo their apartment, but also to declutter,” Matt says. “Reducing their stuff to the bare essentials allows the apartment to be seen a contiguous whole, rather than a collection of parts.”

“The design was very much a reflection of how Sam and Lou wanted to live. They are a busy couple, both running their own successful small businesses. They wanted a place that they could escape their busy work lives and simply switch off.”

With sustainability key to all of Killing Matt Woods’s work, the small size of the apartment also prompted a deep consideration of the material palette. “We were very conscious of not over capitalising both financially and environmentally on what is ultimately a small loft space,” says Matt. Highlighting the active role of the builder in the design process, Sam and Matt collaborated to find an alternative to resource and energy intensive concrete. The resulting solution was found in a grey French-wash paint finish, virtually indistinguishable from concrete, while the sweeping curved form is constructed from an upside-down cyclorama, an idea that came to Sam after accompanying Lou on a photoshoot.

The simplicity of the brutalism-inspired design within the apartment’s double-height volume lends the interior a disproportionate sense of scale more usually felt works of civic architecture than on the small, domestic scale of a single apartment.

Just as the idea of the concrete bunker is subverted by twisting expectations of materiality, the interior is caught in the tension between the atmosphere that is both intentionally moody and brooding yet also warm and inviting. “These are perhaps contradictory emotions, but within my work, I love exploring contradiction and juxtaposition, which are innate human traits,” Matt says. This is felt, too, in the interplay of scales. The simplicity of the brutalism-inspired design within the apartment’s double-height volume lends the interior a disproportionate sense of scale more usually felt works of civic architecture than on the small, domestic scale of a single apartment.

Through a collaborative approach, the project sees an ambitious vision executed with rigour and precision. Eschewing all expectations, Perfect Storm proposes a more buildable, liveable and sustainable brutalism.

A Contemporary Concrete Bunker Perfect Storm By Killing Matt Woods Sydney, Nsw, Australia Image 13

Eschewing all expectations, Perfect Storm proposes a more buildable, liveable and sustainable brutalism.

Published 22 April, 2020
Photography  Pablo Veiga
Issue 02 Cover Web
FEATURED IN THE LOCAL PROJECT PUBLICATION - ISSUE 02
The Local Project print publication was created to inspire, inform, entertain and engage through exclusively curated content.
Published in February 2020, Issue 02 of The Local Project features just under 300 pages of photographs, interviews, articles and profiles focusing on contemporary architecture and design. Printed on exceptionally high-quality paper stock, The Local Project is designed to be read and enjoyed over time.
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