SMALL PROJECT ARCHITECTURE AWARD
Nino Bellantonio, AiL Studio & Joanna Nelson Architect
The jury believes that H-House is an important project. The architect client purchased a 1950s cottage in O’Connor for their family. Rather than demolishing the existing cottage and building anew, a decision was taken from the outset to accept the economy and modesty of the original cottage and to consider the particular architectural opportunities that would emerge via a renovation project.
The result is a wonderful living environment that has resulted from a series of extremely fine judgements in regard to subtraction and addition, scale, light, materiality, form and program. At the strategic level, these judgements include the renovation of the garage as a small swimming pool, placement of the rainwater tank at the front door as part of the entry sequence and sitting a new music room with external access only. At a detail level, the interventions are too numerous to mention but include the precise location of custom and antique furniture, moments of restoration or refurbishment, and a restrained level of finish to ensure every change complements the existing humble dwelling. Various other small moves have been made which not only complement the existing building but elevate the experience of being there to a poetic level.
Unfortunately for those who have not visited the house, none of this is possible to grasp in photographs. The reliance on material and haptic experiences appeals to all senses and thus the photographic medium simply cannot capture the qualities of this work.
While this is a fine and gentle architectural work, H-House exerts great power as an exemplar in the current debates regarding consumption, the scale of the individual house, energy use and sustainability, and cultural values. Despite its modesty, the project carries on its slight shoulders a critique of these contemporary issues and is an absolute delight to visit. This is the quintessential ‘small project’ and is a worthy winner of the Canberra Medallion.
Architect/Practice: Nino Bellantonio, AiL Studio & Joanna Nelson Architect
Practice Team: Nino Bellantonio (Project Architect), Joanna Nelson (Project Architect), Katie Moore
Consultant Team: Pierre Dragh (Structural Consultant)
Construction Team: Mifsud Constructions (Builder), Aurora Landscaping & Pools (Pool Construction), Heating and Cooling Services (alterations to hydronic heating)
Photographer: Tim Thomas, Nino Bellantonio and Ann Cleary