- James Russell Architect
Architect in ChargeJames Russell
Design TeamJames Russell, John Ellway, Ash Brown
BuilderJames Davidson, Owner Builder
Text description provided by the architects. Florida Gardens, a 60’s canal estate with leathery swinging grandmas and breezeblock houses. What a great context...
We wanted to play with breezeblocks, a material that has its place here, but breezeblocks are expensive and need to be painted for protection from the corrosive coastal air.
We used extruded clay bricks on edge, showing the ugly holes. Extruded brick is inexpensive, low embodied energy and doesn’t require applied finishes to protect it. The material, clay, can be expressed and enjoyed.
Fixed to expressed hardwood framing we make our screen. Sun becomes a dappled light, breeze moves through, rain becomes mist, daily rituals can happen in privacy but with views or awareness of your surrounds and it is secure.
Garden is of course, inside, a hole from earth to sky. A place to arrive (transition), move through and around, to look through or talk across, it connects levels and places you in conversation with country.
The house is a small village between forest and pool.
Houses must sit on the street. Gathering and meals look back to street in conversation. There is a connection with the larger neighborhood. Cars are secondary and never a barrier to this relationship.
This place becomes part of the neighbouring family, though more generous with forest to street. A place that is similar to its neighbours but with a finer grain or detail and more ambiguous about inside and out.
I drove my tinny from Currigee at South Straddie to meet James and Lauren for the first time. I was looking scruffy and didn’t expect to hear from them again but this was a perfect way to start discussions about living on the coast. Discussions around a place that is refined, provides protection from adverse weather, a shell or screen that protects and allows you to enjoy this country.
James and Lauren became owner builders for this project, not only reduce costs, but to try their hand at building like many young families have done before. Tight budget is a driver of innovation, making with minimal material, put together in ways to achieve a particular porosity or quality of space.
Collaboration was key with this project. Josh the engineer helped us make our modular timber frame & skin work with minimal steel. James and Lauren sourced timber from a family timber mill and Eve from Austral Bricks help in finding a beautiful clay brick.
Lauren, James and kids engage with the benign climate as part of daily rituals... making of food happens beside the flowering Crepe Myrtle, dappled sunlight moving across your body while having a morning coffee, summer breeze passes the fine brick screen across your veiled, naked body as you lay in bed. The building breathes.
There is a village within this filter. Place for a large extended family much of the time, and retreat when required. Layering of a little village, connection to country and diverse social possibilities with movement beyond to the forest or pool.