A design exhibition

Green Magazine in conjunction with The City of Melbourne and MINI Australia (yep, the cars) initiated a design exhibition to explore the future of compact inner city housing.

They invited fourteen Australian architects to design and exhibit a 1:20 scale model of a house for family of four to be located on a tiny site on a parking lot in Melbourne’s CBD.

We were excited at the opportunity to contribute our ideas for a compact clever and sustainable house that would meet the brief of an urban family of four on this challenging site:

While the average Australian home is upsizing beyond 240m² we are seeing a shift in inner city dwellers’ aspirations towards quality rather than quantity of space. Amplified by the scarcity of affordable inner-city properties and concerns around sustainability, urban Australians are looking to achieve a smaller physical and environmental footprint.

Space is at a premium at INVERT’s 85m² inner city site, requiring rooms to be stacked vertically.

The problem with vertical houses is their tendency to physically separate family members and inhibit interaction, not a sustainable outcome! In an age where parents lament that their kids message them via social media from their bedrooms, the challenge for this house is to foster connections within the family.

Our solution is a 185m² family home with six levels of interlinked openable spaces arranged around a helix form. Borrowing from the ‘raumplan’ concept of continuous, flexible spaces, helix house is a sequence of diagonally linked spaces that promote interaction. Zones can be closed with operable screens allowing family members to seek solace. When open, the spiralling spaces share daylight, warming sun and cooling breezes.

The middle levels include living zones where the family come together. From here they can partially retreat to the study diagonally above and the multi-purpose room diagonally below while still being connected.  The sunken dining space playfully employs level changes as seating and provides cosy formality to the family ritual of dining.

The main living zone, a couple of steps up, has high ceilings that provide passive solar and natural ventilation throughout the house.

Further above, the study accommodates all family members, reflecting our growing culture of working from home with flexible hours and desire for kids to do homework, and use the internet, connected with the living rooms. The change in level and operable screens provide selective seclusion.

The lower floor contains kid’s bedrooms that are expandable as needs evolve from sharing a bedroom and playroom in younger years to seeking privacy in separate bedrooms as teenagers.

The multi-purpose room combines TV, music and guest bedrooms as a place where kids can make noise behind closed doors but the majority of the time will be open to the rest of the house.

The spiralled volume culminates in the master bedroom which looks out over the living rooms. There is no space-hungry walk in robe or ensuite, just a second bathroom that is accessible to the living rooms below.