Architect to study proposals for Elementary School

The South Butler school board has authorized the architectural firm of Burt Hill Kosar Rittleman and Associates to explore two plans for repair and possible renovation of the closed Winfield Elementary School.

The 60-year-old school has been closed since August when structural problems in the roof were discovered during routine patching work.

Under the first plan to be studied, the architects will consider the installation of steel beams and other means of shoring up the building.

Board member Brian Hartle asked the firm to also determine what would be needed to renovate the entire roof, and what would be involved in repairing only the wing of the building with the most extensive structural problems.

Under the second plan, the firm would study the renovation of the entire school with allowance for additional classrooms in anticipation of population growth in the district.

The architects also have been told to analyze whether construction of a new elementary school building would be more feasible.

The firm has six weeks to complete the studies.

Rob Pillar, a representative of Burt Hill, said that while the plan to install steel beams was more labor intensive and involved a longer construction time, the result would provide more school design options, the ability to alter the shape of the roof and the ability to increase classroom size from the present 640 square feet to the state recommended 660 square feet.

Pillar said state reimbursement money was available for a combination of new construction and renovation, but that no money was available for only repairs.

Jeff Graham was the only board member voting against the plans to be studied. Board President Walter Robb abstained from voting.

Due to the forced closure of Winfield Elementary, kindergarten students from the school meet in St. Joseph Church in Cabot, while elementary students attend classes in Zion Methodist Church in Sarver.

Construction tips from king of the sand castle

he reason I noticed this was because I had forgotten my own folding shovel, and wasn’t digging myself.

For me, a trip to the beach isn’t complete without making a sand castle. When the kids were younger, they would join me in making ramps, doorways, tunnels and moats. When the channel to the water was complete, the waves would rush in, filling the moat and eroding our creation.

As the kids grew older, I suspect they might have thought that Dad, sitting in the sand, dribbling wet sand out of a cardboard cup, had lost his marbles.

But I don’t mind. There’s a fascination with making something from sand that still attracts me, even if my castles are rudimentary or misshapen.

Maybe it’s a bid by an aging boomer to recapture some of the joy of youth. Maybe it’s the visceral thrill of creating something so fleeting. Maybe it’s a form of artistic expression.

It’s the artistic expression that draws Todd Vander Pluym, of Redondo Beach, Calif. At 55, you’d think he was too old to be playing in the sand, but after winning 188 of the 194 sand-sculpture competitions he’s entered, he parlayed sand sculpture into a full-time job, doing “installations” at fairs, malls and events across the continent.

“It’s man’s oldest art form, done since Neanderthal times,” he said from Cincinatti, on a break between jobs. “Ramses II used sand sculpture. Da Vinci used sand sculpture.”

Really.

“I think about one-third of the population is the visual builder type. They enjoy putting things together. Sand is an easy medium to work with. You just have to have the desire.”

Assuming you have the desire, here are sand sculpting tips from an expert.

You need the right sand. Pick up damp sand and squeeze the water out. Then open your hand. If it rocks back and forth in one piece, it’s good. If it breaks in two, it’s OK. If it breaks in many pieces or sticks to your hand, you’re in the wrong place.

To give yourself sculptable sand, cut the bottom from a five-gallon bucket. Invert the bucket firmly in the sand and pour in water. Then shovel in sand, and pack it down with a two-by-four until you meet resistance.

Add more water and more sand, repeating the procedure until you are about one inch short of the opening. Then slide the bucket off, with a helper tapping the sides to free the sand. You can use anything up to a 55-gallon trash can, but you’ll need a team to remove that.

Vander Pluym says that, undisturbed, this sand will last for years, but his explanation — involving capillary water action, the sand’s pendular state and the positive ionization of the sand particles — will make your head hurt. Just take him at his word.

Sculpting tools can be “anything that works. Just don’t take anything you want to keep.” Melon scoops are good for the notches under parapets, cake-decorating spatulas are good for sharp edges. A spray bottle with an ample supply of tap water (grit will clog the nozzle) is essential.

Dribble castles are fun for kids and adults. Cut the bottom from a plastic jug and drill a one-quarter inch hole in the cap. With your finger over the hole in the cap, half-fill the jug with water and half-fill with sand, leaving water standing at the top. Then take your finger off the hole to let the sand dribble out.

You can hand-build a castle by having your supply of wet sand one second away from the building site. Make a large sand egg in your hand and quickly lay it in position, like brick-laying. Or use both hands to make a hamburg patty shape and pile one atop the other to make a tall conical tower.

Just don’t move the shape once it’s placed.

Remington sculpture is very beautiful art form, that crosses all ages, races and religions,” says the expert. “It is a totally reusable resource, that takes nothing away from the earth, but leaves a visual pleasure.”

And if it’s OK for Ramses II and da Vinci to play in the sand, it’s OK for you, too.

A building permit is needed to convert deck into sunroom

I have an elevated deck that opens off the living room at the back of my house. One side of the deck is attached to the house and the other two corners are supported on posts sitting on concrete pads. I am thinking of enclosing the deck to make an insulated sunroom suitable for year-round use. Can you tell me how to do this?

The first thing I have to tell you is that you need a building permit to convert your deck into an enclosed sunroom attached to the house, and to get this you will have to submit plans and specifications of the work to be done. I cannot provide that, and recommend that you call in several contractors for suggestions and prices.

If you decide to do the work yourself without a building permit, and a neighbor objects to the addition, you will very likely be required to dismantle it entirely. I have known this to happen. Check with your local building department before you start anything.

Are wood posts safe?

The wood posts supporting our cedar deck have developed some large vertical cracks. Should these be filled or must they be replaced?

There is no need to do anything to the posts. Vertical splits do not weaken them significantly; there is still just as much wood there to support the weight.

Chalking paint

Our 21-year-old split level house is faced with white brick and white aluminum siding. The windows have black aluminum shutters, and the color is washing off these and staining the brick and siding below them. What can we do to correct this?

All exterior paints chalk as they age, and the chalked paint carries the color pigment with it as it is washed off by the rain. I suggest you scrub the chalked paint off the shutters, brick and siding with a stiff brush and a solution of one rounded tablespoon (15 mL) of dishwasher detergent to a litre of water. Then repaint the shutters in a lighter color, using a semigloss or satin latex paint, which does not chalk as much as an alkyd or oil-based paint.

Painting vinyl

I would like to paint my white, vinyl-clad patio doors to match our yellow siding. I have been told this cannot be done. Is that true?

This question does not have a clearcut, Yes or No answer; it is more of a “maybe” or “sometimes” answer. It is true that vinyl doesn’t accept paint too well, but neither does glazed ceramic tile, and I have seen many tiled bathrooms that were painted without a problem.

If you take the following steps, I don’t think you will have any problems. 1) Wipe the vinyl first with a cloth moistened with isopropyl alcohol. 2) Apply one of the special primers made for hard-to-paint surfaces . . . such as Easy Surface Prep (Flood Company), Prime-It, (Swing Paints), and XIM Primer/Sealer (XIM Products). 3) Apply two coats of a top-quality (the highest price in any brand) satin or semi-gloss exterior alkyd enamel. I can’t offer any guarantee, but this is what I would do if I wanted to paint a vinyl door.

Ghost lines on ceiling

When we moved into our 30-year-old, one-storey house about a year-and-a-half ago, there were dark, shadow-like marks on the smooth, flat ceiling underneath all the ceiling joists. I repainted the ceiling to cover these marks, but now they are forming again on the white ceiling. I checked the attic and found that there is six inches of fibreglass insulation between the 2×6 joists. What causes the marks and how can we prevent them?

The ghost lines on the ceiling are caused by differences in the temperature of the ceiling surface. More dust particles will land on cold surfaces than on warmer ones. (If you want more information about this, look up Brownian Movement in a high school physics book or a science encyclopedia.) And because heat escapes through six inches (150mm) of wood faster than it does through six inches of fibreglass, the ceiling directly under the joists will be a little cooler than the ceiling under the insulation, so shadow marks will form on the ceiling under each joist.

The only way to stop this happening is to lay batt insulation over the top of the ceiling joists. This will eliminate the cool areas that have been attracting dust particles under the ceiling joists. The same phenomenon often causes a ghost pattern of wall studs to appear on painted or papered frame walls.

Shower problem

The shower diverter valve on our bathtub spout is not working properly. When I lift it to divert water from the spout to the showerhead some of the water still comes out of the spout. Is there any way I can fix this?

There may be a lime deposit on the diverter plug inside the tub spout, preventing it from sealing properly. The only way to get this off the diverter plug is to unscrew the spout, put it in a pot and cover it with straight vinegar or other lime remover. Leave it there for a couple of hours, then rinse, dry, put a joint sealing compound on the threads and screw the spout back in place.

To remove the spout without damaging the chrome plating, put a metal bar up inside it and use this as a lever to unscrew the spout, counterclockwise. A large screwdriver or the handle of an 8″ or 10″ adjustable crescent wrench or “monkey wrench” should do it. If soaking the spout in vinegar does not correct the problem, install a new diverter spout.

Old Brownstone Architecture

Back in 1889, Salt Lake City’s streets were utterly lacking in automobiles. Fact is, a majority of our town’s thoroughfares lacked pavement and I’m not certain whether a light-rail line ran along 100 South east of Main. If it did, it was not as yet called an electric trolley line – the motive power doubtless consisted of mules or horses. At any event, Mayor Francis Armstrong did not have to contend with pollution from autos or diesel trucks – four-footed animals gave street sweepers work enough.

Mayor Armstrong seems not to have been too swamped with civic duties or at least he had more spare time on his hands than Mayor Deedee Corradini, time enough for him to found and operate a bank. His Commercial Savings Bank being in need of a spanking new building, he commissioned one of our town’s finest architects to build him a proper structure for his proper new commercial institution – to be located on company property at 22 E. 100 South. His three-story, rough-hewn brownstone building still stands, pretty much as designed by Brownstone architect Richard K.A. Kletting. But unfortunately, and through no fault of banker Armstrong or architect Kletting, the century-old structure has been vacant for the past dozen or so years. It’s been vacant so long its future has been in doubt.

There were, of course, some recent years of occupancy. Almost a decade ago an eatery called the Red Apple took root in the old bank building’s basement – but it quickly moved next door into the modest structure occupied by the Deseret News. A short-lived newspaper and magazine shop also occupied the basement for a time – briefly. Simultaneously, a pub called the Brownstone Ltd. and a shop specializing in beauteous wedding gowns occupied the main floor — but again, not for long.

This past month, however, there’s been good news for those architectural buffs who cherish the outwardly unmodish, slightly decrepit building. It has been purchased from recent owners (the West One Bank) by the finance firm of Belsen Getty Inc. In turn, its new principals, William Campbell and Terry Dern, have promised to respect the old-time look of the structure.

Outwardly, this survivor of livelier days in the Main Street district is a three-bay affair, with the central bay topped by a triangular element that may have, in times past, been flanked by twin cornices.

As observant downtowners know, the brownstone structure has a variety of window styles – or fenestration. There are twin windows beneath an elaborately carved arch centered on the top floor, with tripled windows flanking the central pair. Still another trio of arch-topped windows occupies center stage on the second floor, while twin windows capped by rough-hewn stone arches are balanced on either side. The ground floor – likely the banking floor in the old days – has large showroom-style windows on either side of the arch-topped doorway. Entrance is via a broad stone stairway, while the full basement or cellar has large windows admitting light into the below-street-level premises.

While few local residents are elderly enough to remember the years when the bank occupied the premises, many can recall the period when the brownstone was chiefly occupied by the Saltair Railroad and its popular Saltair Resort. By that time, of course, electric trolley-car tracks crisscrossed the city, and gasoline buggies had become more than plentiful.

The weathered brownstone has long had problems that are an outgrowth of its original building material. The fact is, it was not built of brownstone at all, or at least, not the sort of brownstone used for many years to face row houses in New York City. The building material is really a red sandstone, quarried locally in nearby canyons – and it spalls. That is to say, the stone, when set in place for building material, weathers poorly. It flakes off, at many exposed joints, in the wake of our several local winters in which there is alternate freezing and thawing. It is not unlike the flaking politic limestone used for such mansions of note as the Kearns home on South Temple, now used as the Utah’s gubernatorial mansion.

Well, whether it has weathered poorly or not, whether it is called brownstone mistakenly or not, the building at 22 E. 100 South is certainly a survivor. It is good indeed to learn that financial folk of the new generation are astute enough to see that such a building on the National Register is well-worth saving, and utilizing. The foundation stones were laid in 1888; the bank building was occupied a year later. That’s 103 long years ago!

And by the way, banker/mayor Francis Armstrong went on, when his mayoral term ended in 1890, to gain some fame, and, one hopes, some fortune, by buying our town’s initial horse-car lines – after which he electrified same.

Traditional construction techniques – Victorian terrace house

JPR’S DESIGN BRIEF WAS TO CREATE a new family home on the site of a traditional Victorian terrace house. The challenge was to construct a building that displayed the hallmarks of contemporary design while fitting in quietly with the rest of the streetscape.

The house is located in a historic McMahons Point street classed as a conservation zone. This zoning called for a design that was sympathetic with the surrounding buildings, hut the architects were determined to retain a contemporary feel. To satisfy the clients’ needs, it also had to have room for four bedrooms, a workshop, an artist’s studio, and parking for eight cars (to provide for adjacent buildings as well).

The resulting house borrows from the basic design of its older neighbours, taking the form of a verandah-fronted, pitched roof, gable-ended terrace house, From the street, the house sits comfortably beside a Victorian terrace, with the same dimensions, angles and basic features. But it’s the details that set it apart. The roof, although aligning perfectly with its neighbour, is free from Victorian ornamentation, while the solid steel balustrades and verandah supports offer a clean, contemporary alternative to the 19th century’s intricate lacework.

Externally, the house employs traditional construction techniques, with timber frames and cement-washed, painted brick cladding. The roof is corrugated zincalume.

Inside, the house diverges from the conventional Victorian style by juxtaposing formally arranged rooms with open plan living areas. On the ground floor, an informal arrangement allows the large living and dining rooms to flow into the kitchen, casual dining and family rooms at the back. Generous retractable doors open onto the rear courtyard, garden and pool area, providing a large, open entertaining area that blurs the lines between interior and exterior living.

The first floor accommodates bedrooms, bathrooms, the study and artist’s studio, arranged more formally to give a sense of private space. But even here JPR have broken with tradition, creating a suspended bridge that extends through a central void and links the bedrooms with the studio. The bedrooms continue the indoor/outdoor theme, opening onto glass-roofed verandahs. The master suite is located in the second floor loft, and has expansive views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and city skyline.

Considering all the features that are packed into it, the house maintains a wonderfully open, light-infused interior. This is partly achieved by the large atriums extending through the ground and first floors. These spaces also act as ventilation stacks: when the loft windows and basement door are opened in summer, air is drawn over the cool basement surfaces into the interior. In winter, external blinds can be opened to let in eastern and western sun, and the heated air rises through the atriums.

Light is also admitted through the tall, semi-circular glass brick windows that stretch through two storeys on both sides of the entry atrium, White walls interspersed with splashes of colour and offset by warm wood finishes amplify the brightness of the interior, and complement the original artworks that are hung throughout the house.

The naturally ventilated basement is accessed via a ramp from the street and houses the workshop and garage. Due to the previous consolidation of three sites the basement has to provide additional parking for the adjacent terrace and a commercial office. Efficient use of space is made by employing a vehicle turntable and car stackers.

These and the other modern solutions created by JPR leave no doubt that this is a wholly contemporary house. It proves that fitting in with existing structures doesn’t have to result in compromise, and that history, far from being a restrictive force, is something that is continually created.

Combination residence and office – Troppo in Esperanceco

SEVEN HUNDRED KILOMETRES southeast of Perth, lapped by the rolling sands of the Nullarbor Plain on one side and the Southern Ocean on the other, Esperance is remote indeed from the urban centres usually associated with cutting-edge architecture. But among the brick motels and old holiday beach shacks, Troppo Architects have left their mark with one of their most recent residential projects.

With offices in Darwin, Townsville, Perth and Adelaide, Troppo have gained international recognition as the designers of a ‘regional’ architecture associated with Australia’s north and west. Their award-winning designs work with the particular climates of these areas, emphasising natural lighting and ventilation, heat reduction and protection from the elements. The house at Esperance fits into this philosophy with its open spaces and protective coverings. Its pitched roof and corrugated verandahs also have connotations of the Australian shed tradition, a familiar reference point in Troppo designs.

The house was designed as a combination residence and office for the managers of the adjacent holiday apartments (also by Troppo). It needed to complement the existing apartments, while at the same time retaining a separate identity as a private residence.

The moderate climate of the region allowed for an open structure which could be shut down during inclement weather and opened up during finer weather. However, the seaside site was also exposed to strong winds, so the house had to have protective qualities as well.

The house was constructed from lightweight materials to fit in with the informal holiday atmosphere of the town. Steel construction with pine infill has allowed the frame to be kept as light as possible, while galvanising and bolted connections ensure that it is protected from the corrosive effects of the sea air. Inside the house, the steel frame is painted black and exposed in places, reinforcing the delicate nature of the structure.

Despite the lightness of its frame, the house is sturdy enough to withstand the ocean winds. Durable Shadowclad was selected for the exterior walls and painted light grey to complement the bright blues of the adjacent apartments. In keeping with the seaside tone, the colour was inspired by the hues of fading seaweed.

The building’s design and orientation has provided for alternative outdoor living areas depending on prevailing conditions. The open deck to the north is protected from winter winds, while solar access is gained through an open slatted pergola. The front verandah allows opportunity to open up the living area to the outside during calmer, warmer conditions.

The house has been constructed as two double-storey pavilions linked by a transparent zone incorporating the stairs. The front pavilion contains the living areas, with a separate flat to accommodate visitors in the lower level. It faces the sea and provides fantastic views of Esperance Bay. The rear pavilion contains bedrooms and bathrooms in the upper level and the carport, laundry and store below.

The main living areas on the upper level are contained within a long, open plan room. It has windows at each end to let a cooling breeze flow through, and opens onto a covered deck.

This commitment to using natural resources is typical of Troppo’s philosophy. Successfully working within specific climates, they continue to produce buildings which are both highly practical and uniquely beautiful.

House for maximum passive thermal performance

THE HILLTOP SITE NEAR SEYMOUR in central Victoria seemed like the perfect place for a country holiday house. ON one side the land sloped gently towards the river through a stand of red gum trees while, on the other farmland rolled away to the east. Magnificent views and open countryside gave a feeling of peace and isolation.

However, the same qualities that made the site so appealing also left it open to the harsh effects of the elements, including wind and extremes of temperature. Swaney Draper Architects had to find a way of capturing nature’s bounty while minirnising its more unpleasant characteristics.

Because of the extreme seasons that can occur in this part of Victoria, special consideration had to he given to the siting and orientation of the house. It has been positioned to one side of the hilltop, and its graded form follows the slope of the site, with a single pitch roof slanting down from rear to front. The rear of the section has been cut into the hillside, allowing the house to nestle closely against it.

The house has been oriented for maximum passive thermal performance, with large windows to enhance this effect. In winter, the central fireplace can be supplemented by gas ducted heating. The house is not mechanically cooled, relying on natural ventilation and sunshades to get through the hot dry summer Inside, the main focus of the house is a large, tall central room, where all of the family activities take place. It is surrounded by windows on three sides, with timber shades framing views of the red gum trees and river beyond. A massive fireplace in the middle of this room provides both a real and symbolic focus for the family living areas. It’s a space that can be intimate or expansive: you can imagine pulling up a chair close to the fire on a wintry afternoon, or throwing open the doors to the deck on a summer evening.

To the rear of this central space, the rest of the house is contained in a two storey block. The kitchen, laundry and garage are on the lower level, while the upper level bedrooms and bathrooms open onto a gallery which overlooks the living room.

Externally, the unhurried holiday lifestyle is reflected in an uncomplicated structure. Lightweight timber and steel framing have been used to create simple lines that eschew ornamentation. Surfaces are either glazed or clad in cedar with monochrome paint.

This is a house to escape to. Its quiet, spacious interiors are welcoming and restful, while the wide open space that surrounds the building beckons you outside to take in the restorative country air. The laid back lifestyle that it provides is the perfect antidote to the pace of city living.

Max Pritchard’s compact tower

ISING UP FROM A TREE-LINED SLOPE, Max Pritchard’s compact tower seems perfectly at home in the bush. Its simple, unobtrusive shape, natural timber features and muted colourings allow it to blend in with its surroundings, while still standing out as a fine example of elegant, original residential architecture.

Max has been working in Adelaide for fifteen years. When he first started, the local residential design scene was rather quiet — but gradually that has started to change. He believes the region is slowly becoming more conscious of good design, with more original work starting to appear. Having won an Award of Merit in the residential category, Max’s own project has his peers’ approval as a prime example of this exciting new wave of Adelaide architecture.

Max designed the house as a tower to minimise its impact on the land and reflect the form of the neighbouring tall trees. It is built around a six metre square plan, rising through three levels. Balconies, stair landings and cupboards project from the otherwise flat sides of the house, and are clad in plywood and corrugated iron to mirror the colours and textures of the bush. Max believes that what gives the house its uniqueness is its lightweight construction — even though it’s three storeys high, it appears “light and delicate among the trees”.

Because of the large number of trees, the house required a roof without gutters that could become blocked with leaves. Max designed a square roof that dips down in the middle to form a valley that conducts rain water to an adjacent tank.

The slope of the site allows access by bridge to the middle level of the house, which contains the main living area. This is a large open plan space containing the kitchen, dining and living rooms, and providing excellent views of the bush and distant hills. Most of the middle level is in fact two-storeys high, an innovation made possible by cleverly designing the top floor as a mezzanine. This upper level contains the main bedroom and ensuite, while two more bedrooms and a bathroom are housed in the lower level.

The climate in the hills is cooler than in urban Adelaide, so the house needed to be exposed to as much winter sunlight as possible. This has been achieved by placing the living areas in the upper levels of the house and lining them with banks of north-facing windows. Electrical heating provides further warmth in winter. There is no air-conditioning, but the house is naturally ventilated, with the tower form allowing hot air to escape by convection during summer.

The interior of the house continues the natural theme of the exterior, with timber used extensively in floorboards, window frames, stairs and benchtops. Vibrant blue and yellow feature walls enhance the natural brightness of the living spaces, while curved elements contrast with the square form of the building and give a soft edge to the rooms.

This is a house that achieves many things: it is elegantly constructed, yet practical; contemporary and original, but also highly inhabitable; striking in its design, yet considerate of its environment. Its recognition in the RAIA state awards shows that the house is a welcome addition to the growing body of South Australian residential architecture.

The Curtis house – textured cube

A TIGHT SITE AND SEMI-INDUSTRIAL environment contained many clues and some constraints for this new house and studio, which received an Award of Merit in this year’s Victorian Chapter RAIA Awards. Wood / Marsh looked to the large blank faces of Richmond’s warehouses when considering the street presence. Yet, although the facade is decidedly urban, decidedly non-domestic, the aspect the house/studio presents to the street is an enriched one. The blank wall is faced with split-face blockwork in three shades: off-white, pewter and bluestone. Each material occupies a particular plane, rendering the pattern as a thick, three-dimensional surface. The apparently random texture is punctuated by steel window frames, slicing through this dense surface and projecting beyond.

The complexity of this decorated surface might allude to the elaborate ironwork of small Victorian cottages (the building’s other neighbours), or to Melbourne’s polychrome brick history, but it is also reminiscent of Wood / Marsh’s rather more monumental concrete work on the Eastern Freeway. Like those walls, the textured front of the Curtis house involves perceptual tricks. Where the patterning of the freeway harriers appears to shift and change as one drives past at speed, this smaller wall in a dense urban setting plays vertical games. The block and opening patterns increase in scale as they move up the building, confounding the sense of height and perspective from the narrow street. The patterning, however, was generated from a rather more domestic source — the chunky knit of a Missoni swearer.

The confined site led to a strongly internalised cubic volume encased by apparently massive walls. The internal effect of solidity and depth is enhanced by interior blockwork and deep window reveals. The steel window frames jut into the interior, presenting the overtly framed views as additional pieces of realist art.

The “textured cube” is also pierced vertically, bringing light deep into the enclosed volume. Dappled light from the green perforated stair permeates the centre, while an internal courtyard pulls air and light into the rear, creating a second visual link through the depth of the building.

The stair acts as a major ordering element within the simple and direct plan organisation. Darker, lower level spaces are occupied by garaging, storage and a photographic darkroom, studio and office. Bedrooms are located in the middle, while the upper, lighter floor accommodates the kitchen and living spaces. The kitchen opens out to a wide timber deck with rooftop views, providing a release from the otherwise insistent interiority.

These straightforward, robust spaces and surfaces are enlivened by a wonderful collection of visual art and furniture from the 60s and 70s. These aesthetics have subtly affected the architecture. Indeed, the furnishing of tough architectural surfaces with rich interior objects is itself a characteristic of 60s domestic Brutalism. Other references appear in quotation marks. For example, level changes in the living area create a version of the 70s conversation pit — but the white shagpile is confined to a carefully centred rug.

Between Richmond’s industrial environment and the clients’ collection of Twentieth Century visual culture, Wood / Marsh have inserted a rugged cube. The skillful interpretation of these very particular circumstances has resulted in an inventive urban house.

John Price – Mediterranean meets Moreton Bay

It took the combined skills of an architect, an engineer, a surveyon geotechnical firm and an irrigation consultant to prepare this site, by Brisbane’s Moreton Bay. But the end result was well worth the difficulties – an impressive mansion designed by architect John Price.

LOOKING AT THIS SOLID AND STATELY house today, it is difficult to imagine the worries and setbacks that beset its construction. Essentially, it was a fight against the elements: record-breaking heavy rainfall during the construction period added to already difficult soil and drainage conditions.

The site is on reclaimed land on the once-swampy edge of Queensland’s Moreton Bay. The ground is a highly toxic, reactive clay which required a sophisticated drainage system and the carefully considered placement of buildings. At ground level an out-of-ground monolithic concrete slab is anchored to the site via an interconnected grid of substantial footings. All the stormwater and surface run-off feeds into five 25,000 litre in-ground water tanks, which in turn form the basis of a comprehensive irrigation system.

The clients asked architect John Price to design a two storey family dwelling, combining classical and Mediterranean styles. Their main requirement was that the focus be on entertaining, with an interconnected network of outdoor living spaces and a separate guest accommodation wing. The clients had also lived in Indonesia for some years, an influence which is discernable in the overall character of the house and its grounds — especially in external details such as the pillars, the wide pagoda-style eaves and pavilions, and the carved timber outdoor furnishings. Inside, timber furniture and oriental-style rugs and accessories create a similar effect, with glittering chandeliers and lofty ceilings lending a sense of old world opulence.

As the site is rather exposed — especially where it backs on to the water — John has placed the main residence at the front, surrounding it with landscaped gardens which will offer good shelter once the trees are established. He has used architectural elements to provide additional weather protection: a series of screen walls, covered walkways and open pavilions links the main house to the guest pavilion and beyond to the pool and boat shed.

The key living and entertaining areas are on the lower level of the main house. These formal and casual spaces enjoy a northern orientation to the front of the property, and a close connection with walled gardens and outdoor dining areas to the south-facing rear of the site. The heart of the entertaining zone is the ‘kermesse’, a formal dining pavilion — open on three sides — which features in Indonesian architecture. This area, marked off by sturdy pillars, connects directly with the pool via a straight path.

The impressive front entrance is sheltered by a large portecochere, the roof of which is tiled to echo the style of the house itself. Flanking this structure, a colonnaded walkway leads, on one side, to the garage and, on the other side, to the glass doors leading through to the bar/billiards area and the study.

This house has been designed to cope with the tropics, as well as the difficult site conditions. The cavity walls feature their own insulating layer of air, sandwiched between the inner and outer skins of brickwork. The second-storey bedroom wing rests on a suspended concrete slab, and the roof frames are trussed with integral extension pieces to support the deep roof overhangs. These wide eaves provide solar, as well as weather, protection. Openings to the east and west have been kept to a minimum, and wool insulation in the ceilings helps keep all the rooms cool.

Now that the house is finished and the clients have moved in (the house-warming party was legendary), memories of those site problems are rapidly fading. The family is now able to enjoy their spacious, secure and comfortable retreat.