Project Feature

Challenging Traditional Australian Residential Block Typology - Plywood House II by Andrew Burges Architects

Bondi, NSW, Australia

Bronwyn Marhsall

Challenging the traditional Australian residential linear block and its limitations, Andrew Burges’ Plywood House II is an expression of geometry and a play on amenity and efficiency.

Located in Bondi, Sydney amongst the tightly-woven residential fabric of its neighbours, Plywood House II challenges tradition. Initially briefed with replacing the existing bungalow with a two-storey four-bedroom home, Andrew Burges Architects chose to take the path less travelled. Habitually the response to such long and narrow sites would be to anchor all amenities from one linear hallway access point, which would typically be located along one of two site boundaries. This traditional planning philosophy, however, did not afford the clients the connected open-planned living environment they have envisioned.

By accepting the exterior envelope, instead of resisting it, a set of rules for planning and design could be put into place.

The philosophy was to carve spaces that allowed for natural light, flow and movement, and to engage with the landscape elements throughout.

Not wanting to be another (as it is commonly referred to) ‘shot-gun’ housing response, where from the front fence to the rear, the house form seems to shoot in one linear direction, Plywood House II had to respond differently. Although set amongst a sea of long and narrow neighbouring forms, the strategy had to engage with the site and its aspects more honestly. Taking the overall geometry of the residential block as inspiration, Andrew Burges Architects took this shape and chose to express it vertically instead of being constrained to it. Linearity then became the muse, and utilising this form with subtlety within the interiors was priority. The philosophy was to carve spaces that allowed for natural light, flow and movement, and to engage with the landscape elements throughout.

Plywood House II challenges tradition.

Taking the overall geometry of the residential block as inspiration, Andrew Burges Architects took this shape and chose to express it vertically, not be constrained to it.

Andrew Burges’ Plywood House II is an expression of geometry and a play on amenity and efficiency.

By accepting the exterior envelope, instead of resisting it, a set of rules for planning and design could be put into place. Key to this was re-orienting the perception of space internally, which was achieved through the integration of a large skylight and its associated void, a stair that connects the levels and the resulting program that naturally occur around these elements. Key also was the reorientation of focus away from the neighbours, and connection to the natural elements on the site. With a neutral and classic palette of timber, brickwork and natural whites, the spaces radiate a contemporary calm.

With a neutral and classic palette of timber, brickwork and natural whites, the spaces radiate a contemporary calm.

Based on ideals of connection and openness, Plywood House II aims to dissect the expected response to constraints of narrow sites and look beyond to possibilities that afford a more contemporary and connected response. Wanting to create sightlines to both the sky and the landscape elements from all levels of the interiors, the internal voids and connecting structure allow for a sense of flow.

From the initial entry experience, which commences as a sculpted platform and transforms into a series of associated living spaces, the stripping of the traditional formality in planning allows for a more relaxed family environment. Andrew Burges Architects have played with geometries, both as solid and as voids, and challenged the traditional to create a private, openly inward and connected home in Bondi.

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