As a proposal for a Sunshine block, our two key design moves for this project were to maximise the utility of site through a spatial approach to design and to interrogate box as form.
To save our suburbs we need to share our suburbs. We took the premise that open space is a shared resource. A typical suburban block allows for three to four dwellings under current planning controls, developed with access driveway on one side, a row of attached dwellings along the central axis, and small yards at the rear. Open space gets partitioned or serves as backdrop; driveways are used a maximum of 30 minutes a day – drive in, drive out, repeat. This means that for approximately 11.5 daylight hours each day these spaces are unutilised. In this townhouse design we maximise the utility of these resources. We don’t discriminate. We assume open space can serve varied purposes at different times of day, different days in the week, and different seasons, and be shared between different groups. It should enhance social interaction, allow for free movement, and be allocated for a wide range of activities. In our scheme private open space is available to each dwelling, but the majority of open space is shared and doesn’t discriminate between private and communal, car access and recreation.
The placement on site and built form of each dwelling support the idea of freedom and mobility that come through a lack of definition and sharing of space. A row of rigid attached dwellings was pulled apart and ‘loosened up’. We opted for modular units for the dwellings with a simple two storey layout that slightly distorts each plan to create the illusion of more internal space without increasing floor area. This seemingly simple intervention has the dual benefit of being able to adapt to sites with challenging constraints. Roofs can be modelled to ensure planning guidelines are adhered to and good natural light access, fresh air and vistas are maintained.
This sustainable townhouse design is modular: modules can be joined, pulled apart, and put together in a number of configurations to suit different sites, orientation or development aspiration (units, townhouses or free standing houses).
We aimed for this project to achieve the yield of a townhouse or unit development (often rejected by local communities) but maintain an openness and casualness that attract people to suburban living. It fosters personal agency in one’s own home by creating spaces that are simple, functional and delightful. These homes have a casual spatial character, lots of open space, and encourage free movement and activities. They place a higher priority on the impact of design on human health ensuring fresh air and natural light, plentiful opportunities for social interaction and increased thermal comfort.
Each three-bedroom dwelling has an efficient floor plan of 125 sqm plus carport and terrace and can make a significant step towards much-needed housing affordability.