Grand Designs Australia

The Claremont Origami House

Resident architecture expert, David Hallett from Ask An Architect, gives us his opinion on The Claremont Origami House from Episode 3, Season 5 of Grand Designs Australia.

Architect. According to Google, the word ‘architect’ derives from the French architecte and the Italian architetto, via Latin from the Greek arkhitekton; a composite of arkhi- ‘chief’ + tekton ‘builder’.

Chief builder...or ‘principal technician’ as another definition has it.

Historically, architects were the principal technicians behind the design and construction of buildings. They conceived of the design and supervised its construction, guiding artists and artisans towards the realization of their vision.

Those days are long gone...building is more complicated today than it used to be. Technological change – not to mention a far more regulated and litigious environment – means that teams of specialist consultants work together now to create buildings with the support of detailed drawings, comprehensive specifications and sophisticated digital modeling.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for an architect to get down and dirty with their tradesmen sometimes, as Arianne has so beautifully demonstrated. As someone who has done his fair share of hole-digging, frame-building and scaffold-rigging, I have to love an architect who does their own welding!

Size isn’t everything.

At 400 square metres in area, Arianne and Neil’s land isn’t much bigger than many contemporary homes but clever planning and some operable walls have turned this house into a Tardis! Flexibility is the key, as is a deep understanding – and a thoughtful interpretation – of client requirements (admittedly much easier when the architect is the client!).

It’s also worth remembering that whilst pivoting walls or expansive bi-fold doors can open space up, they can also create places for private conversation or solitary contemplation...something not easily achieved in so many of today’s fashionably open-plan homes.

Not all builders can cope with architecture ‘on the run’.

As Arianne says, she’s got a good team that enjoys the challenge of building something out of the ordinary without the benefit of prescriptive drawings, pre-fabrication or mass-production. This harks back again to the architect as ‘principal technician’ but it wouldn’t be possible without the skill, trust and patience of the craftspeople that made this building.

I just hope they were paid by the hour!

Arianne speaks of the prosaic nature of the materials she’s chosen to create the fabric of this building. Indeed – with the exception of the styrene insulated panels that clad the rooftop studio – there’s nothing uncommon about the cement blocks, concrete, clay pavers and timber that make this house a home.

It just proves that marble tiles and expensive tap-ware don’t make a home…imagination does.

Working drawings, building approvals and structural engineers also play a part – don’t think they weren’t lurking in the background!

Visit Ask An Architect for more information.

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