Westgarth Timber Project

Exploring sustainably sourced materials

“They designed a rear living space that opens onto an airy, double-height void that’s carefully orientated, glazed and cross-ventilated to flood the space with natural light, warmth, breezes and views of the surrounding trees.” – Kath Dolan, Green Magazine

In an age where clients tell us their kids retreat to bedrooms and communicate with parents via social media, we strive for a house that feels more real. Real materials, real heating, real cooling and real family interaction.

We sourced a diverse range of recycled, salvaged and radially sawn timbers and wove them into a naturally comfortable, site responsive home. This timber is used practically to create sun shading, breeze control and privacy but also imaginatively to create feelings of transparency, floating and seclusion.


Conscious that the sourcing of discarded materials was a nest-like approach, we accentuated this in the detailing, abstracting the elements to explore the contrasting feelings of living in a nest; Open & breezy but warm & cosy. Semi-Transparent but secluded. Rough & tactile externally but comfortable internally. Over-riding is a sense of floating, perched in the treetops.

The void is oriented for passive solar gain and draws prevailing southern breezes but also connects the living rooms with the semi-secluded first floor rooms including the floating loft-study fostering real family interaction.


  • Nesting with Style, Green Magazine, Issue 40
  • In Search of the real thing, The Age Domain, 6th March 2015

Photography: Nic Granleese


Brunswick Lane Solar House

Creating space with a tiny footprint

“The house embraces the sun in its form and technology. The effect at night is magical – light from the balcony seeps through transforming the house into a giant delicate lantern”

– Stuart Harrison, Forty Square Metres of Land Doesn’t Normally Become a House

The Brunswick Solar House is a compact sustainable and flexible house on a tiny urban site of 121m² fronting onto a bluestone lane. The ‘upside-down’ design places the bed rooms on the ground floor where the thermal mass and high performance insulation provides an acoustically and thermally stable sleeping environment. Meanwhile the open plan living area located on the first floor benefits from excellent passive solar gain, cross ventilation and from borrowed views of neighbouring trees and sky.

The form of the building grows to the north–facing lane to maximize sun penetration for passive heating and create a feeling of space greater than the actual floor area.

A highlight window of glass louvres pops up to the south to catch cooling southerly breezes over the roof tops of the heritage houses to the south. Pitched at 22.5° this roof is also the optimum angle for mounting the grid-interactive photovoltaic array and solar hot water system.


  • Australian Timber Design Awards, Winner Young Designer’s Award 2009
  • BPN Sustainability Awards, Winner Best New Single Dwelling, 2009
  • Look Green Home Awards, winner Expert’s Choice Award, 2009
  • Shortlisted Victorian Architecture Awards 2012, Sustainable Architecture Category


  • Forty Square Metres of Land Doesn’t Normally Become a House, Stuart Harrison, Thames & Hudson, 2011
  • Warm House Cool House, Nick Hollo, Choice, 2011
  • The Eco Experiment, The Age Melbourne Magazine, Issue #58, August 2009
  • Affordabe Architecture, Great Houses on a Budget, Stephen Crafti, Images Publishing 2010
  • Green Living, Dec/Jan, 2009/10

Photography: Emma Cross



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.


‘Hydro-village’ adjacent to the Queen Vic Market

Green Magazine in conjunction with The City of Melbourne and MINI Australia initiated a design exhibition for the prominent site at the north-west corner of Melbourne’s CBD, adjacent to the Queen Victoria Market.

The exhibition was held in October 2018 at the M Pavilion at the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne, around the corner from the subject site.

The key stipulation for the exhibition was that the designs had to be communicated with hand drawn sketches. Old School!

The inspiration for our proposal draws from an environmental problem that exists on this site, at the top end of Elisabeth Street. Elisabeth Street was originally a natural waterway that was built over to become a busy city street. Overland flows still naturally run into Elisabeth street resulting in flashing flooding and carrying pollutants to Port Phillip Bay – a terrible outcome for the built environment, city commuters and of course, the natural environment.

This problem is endemic to this site but also exists across our cities where hard surfaces prevent the natural absorption of water into the environment.

Too often our cities and buildings don’t retain the water that falls on and around them, sending it off to the bay polluted with rubbish and toxins from our urban environment. This makes an unhealthy environment for our surrounding marine life. If that isn’t bad enough, these toxins end up in the fish that we as humans end up consuming on our plates!

Meanwhile our city buildings import huge amounts of water from reservoirs miles away, use that water once in inefficient ways, and then send it off to sewerage treatment plants, again miles away. Crazy right!?

Our proposal for this site is multifunctional system that links the problem of urban water management with the production of food within our city and in so doing creating opportunities for a better model of inner city living.

As our population grows and climate change creates uncertainties around our future, we believe that multi-residential, mixed use developments should be focusing on creating multifunctional infrastructure systems. These buildings can better connect our communities but also promote more efficient use of resources to meet the social and environmental challenges that we face moving forward.

Our proposed building will collect all of the water that falls on and adjacent to the subject site. This water will be stored and used within the building. Once used this water is treated on site and re-used. It is pumped to the top of the building and cascades down the green facade being used in urban farming, hydroponics and aquaponics. This creates green spaces that members of the urban village are able to enjoy. The water in turn passively cools the building and reduces the urban heat island effect in Melbourne’s CBD. This process cleanses Elisabeth Street’s stormwater leaving it clean to return to the environment. It also provides a more natural addition to the cityscape. 

We believe that decentralized and multifunctional infrastructure systems can shape the future of urban development. The approach of connecting water infrastructure with food production strives for a ‘loop’ promoting efficient water use, enhancing water security in supply and disposal. This is imperative in Australia. The linking of such resource cycles can increase the multifunctionality of urban space, decrease our pollution on the natural environment and lead to a more attractive urban environment.

This might seem farfetched, but a similar thing has been done in Germany at a Building called Block 6 – a 1960’s residential complex loin Berlin. In 1987, Block 6 became a pilot project investigating ecological urban renewal, focusing particularly on water within the urban environment. Today, Block 6 is still operating as a ‘live’ laboratory, constantly evolving the water treatment processes of its 250 occupants through mechanical and biological processes. The domestic wastewater produced by the tenants is separated into two flows, grey water and black water. The treated grey water of the buildings occupants reaches a ‘bath water’ quality, and is re-used throughout the building for toilet flushing and to water tenants gardens. This greywater is also used throughout a communal ‘Roof Water Farm’ for the production of fish and plants within a greenhouse, supplying the Block 6 inhabitants as well the ability to supply the local community. Rainwater that falls within the site is directed to a constructed wetland, and stored within the courtyard of the buildings complex. We are incredibly inspired by the resource efficient systems that have been implemented within this project.

If they can insert these systems into the retro-fit of an existing building in Germany, why can’t we do it here?

Check out the video of our proposal produced by Green magazine.

Also follow the links to the other great proposals produced by the other architects participating in this exhibition.


Video series: behind the designs at INVERT 2.0 MINI LIVING – BUILT BY ALL