Archive 2012

Special Talk by an International Architect

The former barn, part of the Bennetts Associates Architects London studio

The AAA is pleased to announce the first of its talks by international architects for 2012. Keep your calendar free on the evening of Tuesday 3 April, for a talk by Julian Lipscombe, Director of one of the UK's leading architectural practices, Bennetts Associates Architects, with offices based in London and Edinburgh.

Formed in 1987, Bennetts Associates established it's reputation in the UK with a series of pioneering headquarters for major corporate clients and has expanded it's repertoire to embrace other building types such as theatres, universities, factories, transport, hotels, housing and conservation projects.


Overview of the Bennetts Associates Architects London studio

Julian Lipscombe joined the practice in 1992 and became a Director in 2002. He has been intimately involved in many of the firm's award winning projects and will offer a fascinating insight into their approach to design.
As a founding member of the UK Green Building Council, it is appropriate to introduce their work by showcasing their London practice premises. Their studio reflects the firm's commitment to sustainable design and a sensitive approach to the existing built environment.

Completed in March 2002, at final cost of £1.1 million, the practice undertook the adaptive reuse of redundant industrial buildings in Clerkenwell. Hemmed in by Georgian and early Victorian terraces, the 650m2 site has an awkward and irregular boundary with two existing buildings on either side of a small, cobbled courtyard.

On the north side is a former print works, once used as a foundry for cast metal lettering and more recently as the premises of a commercial printers. On the south side is a small 18th century barn, a unique survivor from the days when livestock required a resting place on their way to Smithfield Market. Between the barn and the boundary wall is a new, two-storey studio space, replacing some outbuildings that were beyond repair.


View of the circulation space between the existing buildings of the Bennetts Associates Architects London studio

Although the barn was in a state of near collapse, it has been restored to form the "hub" of Bennetts Associates' offices, with its rugged brickwork exposed to view at every opportunity. Meeting rooms and the library are located in its three floors. Refreshment points in the circulation route through the barn encourage interaction between the workspaces on either side. By placing the key rooms in the barn, the whole of the print works and the new extension are devoted to open-plan offices, with good levels of day lighting and a flexible arrangement of workstations that can be serviced from the floor. A double height space near the entrance serves as a whole-office meeting place. The main entrance itself is through the existing wall on to Rawstorne Place, allowing the courtyard to retain its original dimensions and atmosphere.


Interiors of the Bennetts Associates Architects London studio

Bennetts Associates is using the project as an exemplar for its own work on sustainability. Bringing redundant buildings back into re-use is one of the key economic principles, but the design also demonstrates at an environmental level how to reduce carbon emissions across disparate forms of construction. This includes a series of measures to reduce energy consumption, including thermal mass, such as a green roof, in the new build element, natural ventilation, high insulation values, solar control and the avoidance of air conditioning.


Interiors of the Bennetts Associates Architects London studio

For a sneak peak at Bennetts Associates Architects portfolio go to their website.

Our special AAA talk will take place at Sydney University. Further details of the location will be released closer to the date.

Photos courtesy of Bennetts Associates

Roy Grounds - My Dream Home...


Do you have a house that you've aspired to? As a child, did you ever play with the idea that you would live in a tumbling castle on a hill side with a grand stair case, or a blinding white modern house of concrete and glass - a Neutra inspired house that sparkles on a precipice overlooking an eternal city of lights? If your childhood world was suburban Canberra, the unexceptional brick venereal of sprawling suburbs ‐ then the Barbie House of Dreams was my fantasy!

However thankfully, tastes do change. I grew up and studied architecture. To me, an ever expanding, service poor, suburban algae bloom is not aspirational. I now want to live in a tree lined street, walking and bike riding distance to the city - bird song to wake me in the morning, the smell of fresh croissants and sweet faced puppy dogs tumbling into laps, in a home filled with light, a terrace garden and Bach playing softly in the background.

My dream home has slowly been refined by time and yes tainted by architectural expectation and I admit, no less fantasy. But this home does exist - I've seen it, I've driven past it many a time. I've taken friends visiting Canberra, past it and shared with them how and why I should be living there.

Do I not deserve the very humble dream of living in one of the terrace houses by Roy Grounds that are on Tasmania Circle in Forrest, Canberra? With one of the terraces recently on the market, I finally had the opportunity to view inside and I jumped at it.

The suburb of Forrest to begin with, is a blue ribbon address. There are some big houses here- big expensive brick, concrete brick, tiled, beautifully manicured lawns and gardens with circular driveways and flag pole kind of houses. These homes are on sweeping streets that are wide and lined with mature trees and lots of open parkland, this suburb after all, is one of the inner city, older suburbs that follows the original Griffins' plan. Forrest is the Hermes of Canberra - established, conservative and classy. You rub shoulders with dignitaries, diplomats, old money, new money - ah hell all money!

I may covet architecture because of it's cultural, environmental and technology driven innovation, but let's not forget that aspiration can be material too. Oh yes, and don't forget that the Forrest Terrace Houses have also been given 'official' status, as they are on the register of the AIA list of Nationally Significant Twentieth Century Residential Architecture.

Ah Corbusier, ahem Grounds, ye modern, architectural master of material and technology - teaching us lesser beings how to live. This is true. The terrace houses are a very good example of compact efficient planning. They are constructed in simple industrial materials, concrete block walls and concrete slab floors (in slab heating even, an original feature!).

However, these are not cold stark spaces. Timber finishes feature throughout giving the interior spaces a warm natural feel. All storage was built in, also finished in timber. Did I mention the straw lining to the raked timber raftered ceiling? Who would have imagined that! The double height, glazed opening to the private north facing courtyard, fills the living/dining area with light. You can imagine how beautiful it is, cool and green dappled, from the massive trees outside.


The Roy Grounds development has one bed-sit, a separate courtyard residence and five terraces. A single terrace house has two bedrooms and a bathroom on a mezzanine level, stacked above the kitchen, study and entry below.

The terrace I had the privilege to view (thank you Ray White Canberra), had had some interior modification to the original, a curved extension to the mezzanine gallery on the north was added. Ordinarily such an abomination to the simplicity and clarity of the straight clean lines of modernity is abhorred, yet this still works. It is a testimony to the affect of maintaining the same timber finishes and how clearly the advantage of double height volume and light has on the space, it still feels big!

Yes yes, there is history in this development, architectural significance**, example of a time, an era, international regionalism blah blah blah, but I want to live here like many others do because despite being over 50 years old, I can see the timeless beauty of light filled, simple spaces. This is why I have faith in what good architecture can give us. It may not be my home (yet!) but it is how I want to live.



Further Reading: is very informative and gives lots of insight to modern residential architecture in Canberra. - Sales web page of the house shows multiple internal images


By our new Canberra correspondent: Soovius


Photos by Vanessa Couzens

Green Roofs and Green Walls

1202B4Ever wondered about what alternatives are available for building roofs? Come and discover the green roof, on the latest AAA CPD Talks Series: Green Roofs and Green Walls, taking place on 22 February in SOHO Annex South, Rosebery.

Green roofs, also known as eco-roofs, living roofs, planted roofs or vegetated roofs, are quite literally roofs designed to support plant life. Over the past decade, an increasing number of leading architects, across Europe, America and Australia have been utilising this system to improve the performance of roofs and create environmentally sustainable buildings.  On an overseas visit, midway through last year, AAA Volunteer, Vanessa Couzens, explored a building designed by Italian Architect, Renzo Piano. His building, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, uses a green roof to aid in the climate control of internal spaces. We thought this would be a great introduction to what can be achieved using green roofs.

A view across the California Academy of Sciences roof (Image by Vanessa Couzens)

In 2008 when San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences was rebuilt, Renzo Piano conceived of a domed roof covered by greenery. At the time this was quite a novel design for a vegetated roof and presented some real challenges in how to establish plants on the, quite steep in places, roof structure.

In keeping with the sustainable ethos, Piano was resistant to utilising plastic plant containers to hold plants in place. The consultant ecologist, Paul Kephart, resolved the problem of anchoring plants in position, utilising a biodegradable green roof module, made out of trays fabricated out of coconut fibre and held together with natural latex, that would naturally break down as plants developed root systems.

The California Academy of Sciences' roof is covered in California native species. The roof is used year round, for research and education. This meant that species selected needed to look good, virtually year round, to ensure that visitors remained engaged. Renzo Piano also wanted the roof to have a smooth, monolithic look, which meant that low ground hugging species were preferred. Over thirty species were tested, to establish the ideal plants for the harsh climate conditions and slopes on the roof.


Windows on the domes of the California Academy of Sciences (Image by Vanessa Couzens)

The Academy also wanted to create a habitat conducive to native insect life, particularly the endangered species of butterflies the Bay Checker-spot and the San Bruno Elfin. The comings and goings of flora and fauna are monitored closely by Academy staff and students from San Francisco State University. Monthly samples of insect life are taken along with the monitoring of plant species that show up on the roof without intervention.

Because of the very public nature of the roof space, it is constantly maintained and experience of seasonal variations in the ground covers has prompted the need to intervene, on occasion, by planting native flowering annuals that add interest and colour to meet visitor expectations.

Aside from the advantage of creating habitats for local flora and fauna, a green roof also offers great thermal advantages for the interiors of buildings. It slows the transfer of heat between exterior and interior, reducing and in some cases making obsolete, the need for air conditioning and heating.

In the Academy of Sciences substantial savings have been made in their use of electricity. Control of temperatures internally is further aided by the inclusion of computer operated porthole windows in the domes of the roof. These allow hot air to be released out to the exterior and also allow the building to be naturally ventilated.

New Walk Launch: Castle Cove


The AAA is proud to announce the commencement of the first of it's new walking tours for 2012. The Castle Cove - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly walking tour, will be led by one of our volunteers, architect and design educator, Ben Gerstel.

Enjoy a Saturday afternoon immersing yourself in 1960's suburbia and trace how it is changing. Be reminded of your growing up years - of textured coloured brick, decorative balustrades and lots and lots of features too good to miss!

Join our launch walk on 25 February and be part of the launch event which will take place in the above house designed by Marston Architects.

In 1920 Walter Burley Griffin founded the Greater Sydney Development Association (GSDA), which purchased 650 acres of Middle Harbour and encompassed the peninsulas of Castlecrag, Middlecove and Castlecove. Castlecove was the last of which to be developed as a suburb.

Originally Castle Cove was a pure 1950's and 1960's single dwelling suburb and one of the first to incorporate a golf course. The area is now gentrifying, with houses either being renovated or knocked down.

Over the course of the walk you will view numerous buildings designed by architects. These include works by Martin and King Architects, White Box Architecture, Harry Seidler & Associates, Marston Architects, Bruce Rickard and Luigi Roselli Architects.

Tickets are selling fast, book now!

More Benefits for AAA Members

1202E1The AAA is proud to announce further benefits for its members. All our members are now eligible for a reduced subscription rate to Luxury Home Design magazine.

Edited by the AAA president, Kate St James, Luxury Home Design features innovative ideas and the latest trends and showcases the work of some of Australia's most talented architects, designers, builders and artist to help readers in their quest to create their perfect homes.

We are sure many of our members will enjoy reading the magazine throughout the year. Better still, AAA members will be able to subscribe to it for only $55 for an entire year of 7 issues.

We will mail out a special subscription form shortly to all the current members. If you are not yet a member, join today and start enjoying this special rate and many other benefits!