Brunswick Lean-to: Blair Smith Architecture

Brunswick Lean-to | Blair Smith Architecture | Photographer: Tom Ross

Brunswick Lean-to is a discrete addition to a heritage-listed weatherboard cottage. The project draws upon the ubiquitous lean-to it replaced; a colloquial structure often overlooked or demolished in the event of an extension. Blair Smith Architecture demonstrates sensitivity and depth of thought, addressing opportunities and constraints through site-responsive spatial planning and the packaging of multifunctional elements in a robust, utilitarian structure.

The project highlights the capacity of a small practice to creatively respond to a tight brief, particularly when complemented by a forward-thinking client invested in the core ideas of the design. Referred to Blair Smith via two established practices, a simple napkin sketch of a small extension showed the client’s commitment to a vision contrary to the often-ill-conceived developments rapidly altering Brunswick’s urban fabric. Blair Smith describes the project as “an example of what I believe more people should take on. Our society is so driven by stretching ourselves to the limit in terms of resources and finances. The clients weren’t interested in achieving area, but instead concentrating their modest budget on quality and an intensified mood over a smaller space.”

With a footprint of 51 square-metres, the low-slung addition retains a cohesive streetscape while cleverly engaging with the entirety of the site through permeable spatial planning and well-considered thresholds. The eastern side passage functions as a thoroughfare and secondary point of access to the home and backyard via a multi-purpose pantry and mudroom. The unusual placement of wet areas to the north was both an economic consideration and an opportunity to engage with the rear yard and western side passage. A planted threshold along the northern facade grafts the home into the backyard, which contains an edible garden and detached studio.

Brunswick Lean-to | Blair Smith Architecture | Photographer: Tom Ross

Across the project, cleverly resolved multi-functional elements and detailing do the heavy lifting. A gradually sloped projecting roof and angled ceiling and soffit taper to a thin edge. This deep eave, sliding timber screens and fluted glass doors control heat gain and overlooking from the neighbouring three-storey development to the north. The dark screens blend with a battened wall and stained timber window frames. All new internal partitions accommodate fixtures or joinery. Bookended by concrete masonry walls, these multifunctional features meld into a tight, robust and cohesive form with a distinct character.

The coherence of the built outcome is a testament to both the architect and client’s ideological commitment to the project’s core ideals. In employing an emerging practice, such clients may be rewarded with a generationally unique level of dynamism, curiosity, creative commitment and personal investment. Blair acknowledges that “the benefit of engaging a young practice for a prospective client becomes a moving target, because often practices are best suited to small commissions for only a short period. It is quite hard for laypeople out there to find the right professional at the right stage in their career for a modest project.” This highlights the value of promoting early career architects, lowering barriers for prospective clients and recognising the integral role young architects play in their industry. Such smaller-scale projects present a particularly compelling outlet.

Phillip Pender (BEnvs, MArch) is an architectural graduate at Atlas Architects with experience in residential and multi-residential projects.

Published online:
12 Oct 2021

Source:
Architect Victoria
Edition 1
2022

More from Architect Victoria

Balfe Park Lane: Kerstin Thompson Architects

Considered across the scales of the neighbourhood, building and apartment, Kerstin Thompson Architects’ recently completed Balfe Park Lane is a demonstration of medium-density housing that is contextual, amenable and lasting. The project lies on a rapidly densifying section of Nicholson Street, where the facades of new developments jostle for attention above nondescript ground floors.

Read more

Re-valuing

Through process and approaches that engage with multiple notions of heritage including problematic ones of environmental and cultural destruction, architecture can participate in the widening of a heritage discourse.

Read more

Maggie Edmond: Edmond & Corrigan

Edmond & Corrigan has employed an incomparable number of young architects who have gone on to have prolific careers with their own practices or as sole practitioners. Daniel Moore asked practice director Maggie Edmond some questions.

Read more

A crucible for new housing typologies

Faded photos of public housing projects from the early 1980s line the corridor walls of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, marking the time since the medium density infill housing program, led by John Devenish at the Ministry of Housing. The program became a crucible for new housing typologies as it pursued a policy of diversification through infill, opening up the opportunity to commission emerging practices.

Read more

Napier Street for Milieu: Freadman White

Freadman White’s simultaneous development of Napier Street and Whitlam Place harnessed unique efficiencies and resulted in a highly efficient model for project delivery.

Read more

Amelia Borg, Kushagra Jhurani and Peter Elliott: How to get a job

Early career professionals are often guided by a practice’s development guidelines. Many help by pairing graduates with an experienced graduate, registered architect, or even an architect who has achieved the highest levels of success in our industry. It becomes apparent that the practice of architecture is very different to studying architecture.

Read more

Lovell Burton: Springhill House and Barwon Heads House

Lovell Burton grew organically from a conversation over many years. We share a common endeavour to shape the built environment with a social, environmental and fiscal approach.

Read more

Emerging Architect Prize: Alexander & Sheridan Architecture

In 2021, Jacqui Alexander and Ben Sheridan were the Victorian recipients of the Emerging Architect Prize. With a diverse CV of research, publications, exhibitions, and built work, Daniel Moore spoke with Jacqui about her achievements in the time that she has been emerging in the architecture profession.

Read more

Calk House: Mani Architecture

Putting strong relationships with their clients at the forefront, and remaining bonded with their projects after completion, the Mani Architecture team are “reminded on how we have changed our clients’ lives for the best”.

Read more

Ozanam House: MGS Architects

Joshua Darvill, coordination, engagement and participation manager at Ozanam House provides a snapshot of the services provided, long-term sustainable outcomes and reassessing the needs of the community.

Read more

Architectural photography

A photo essay of architectural photography. Daniel Moore asked established architectural photographers about their first memorable project, finding their way into the profession and/or working with early career architects.

Read more

Investment in affordable housing quality: Why the industry should support it

Recently, we have seen many news stories pointing to the bounce back and now surge in house prices in our capital cities. With this, a host of public servants, politicians, residential property investors, and homeowners sit back content, another KPI met, clearly all is well in the garden. The low interest rates, the decades-long incentives rewarding this investment are working. But are they? Are we getting the housing infrastructure we need, in the locations and in the form and tenure required to build the Australia we need economically and socially?

Read more

Building a folio

We fell into our practice with little planning, much optimism and a dose of imposter syndrome. Our first project was to blame; a friend was starting a cafe and bar in a beautiful art-deco building on Carlisle Street and we were doing the fit-out. With the promise of a prominent built project on the horizon, we felt sure that we were on our way (spoiler: we were pretty wrong).

Read more

Homelessness and social housing

Arron Wood, former Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne, on how architecture and good urban design can have a positive impact on the supply of social and affordable housing.

Read more

Richmond House: Therefore

Director Alex Lake shares how Therefore has spring boarded into residential architecture from a prior base of commercial work – “an atypical direction given most small practices begin with residential work”. 

Read more

NGV Triennial Outdoor Pavilions: BoardGrove Architects

For the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2020 Triennial outdoor program, BoardGrove Architects designed a collection of transient pavilions situated in the gallery’s Grollo Equiset Garden. Drawing on their diverse experience, BoardGrove designed a novel response that skillfully responded to the project brief’s size and budget.

Read more

Revisited: Some aspects of housing overseas

With more funding available than we’ve seen in a generation, there is the will to reimagine social housing sites. Architects, urban designers and public servants have duly taken up the subject. But how to frame the problem?

Read more

Generation Exchange

In the rapid exchange of information that is now a daily reality of contemporary practice there seems to be little time for wisdom. Speed rules. Communication is dynamic. Considered correspondence remains an obligation of our profession yet the hourly deluge of emails that we all deal with in practice is anathema to this fundamentally important component of our practising modality.

Read more

Process over product

Breathe’s project for Aboriginal Housing Victoria has been approached with rigour to deliver a high-quality project embedded with sustainable design principles and cultural engagement.

Read more

This is not my Country

This is not my Country, and because it’s not my Country, I cannot speak on its behalf. This statement is true for me, and almost every built environment professional in Australia, so how can we work on and with the Countries that we are responsible for fundamentally modifying?

Read more