Grand Designs Australia

The Graceville Container House

Resident architecture expert, David Hallett from Ask An Architect, gives us his opinion on theGraceville Container House from Episode 1, Season 5 of Grand Designs Australia.

And so we sit to enjoy another season of Grand Designs…a degustation of follies, monuments and triumphs.

Each episode brings together the core ingredients of land, labour and love but it’s the way they’re blended that creates a special building. The colour, texture and taste of a design separates the art from the ordinary and – whether you like the building or not – there is much to be learned.

So what can we learn from Diane and Todd’s epic adventure beside the moody Brisbane River?

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

How many times can you get knocked down and get back up again? Hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost as a result of the 2011 floods, so Todd invents a new way of building. More rain destroys his flooring, so he saves money by re-purposing materials salvaged from a local demolition. A local typhoon distributes his roofing around the site so he has an afternoon off to take stock, then gets back to work.

Seriously, it’s Man vs Wild with Todd as the Bear Grylls of building!

By the way, a conventional house on slender steel stilts isn’t innovative…it’s a pale imitation of a classic Queenslander that might be micro-environmentally practical but it doesn’t do much for the macro! Todd and Diane’s sacrificial studio/gallery is an inspired response to the problem of perennial flooding.

Innovation = Idea + Execution

Lots of people have good ideas. I’ve had a few myself, but that’s another story. It’s the commitment, patience and will to bring an idea to reality that separates inspiration from innovation…like building a family home from shipping containers.

There’s a place for dreaming; for imagining; for conceiving something yet unrealised, but making it – now that’s the true test of an innovator.

Walls don’t make a Home

They say that only sculptors can see the art inside a rock and few could foresee a pile of steel boxes becoming a stunning house. Todd could, even though he may have lost sight of it during the dark days.

The harshness of the raw, industrial materials of this home has been seasoned with splashes of tropical colour, the warmth of natural timber and the interior irony of gilt and chintz. It’s truly eclectic but it works and it proves that buildings – good buildings – are much more than the materials from which they’re constructed.

This house is bush carpentry at its best; not of log and adze but of steel and angle grinder. There’s an Australian tradition of self-reliance; of getting up and getting on with it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but we have a go.

Todd had a go…and it worked.

Visit Ask An Architect for more information.

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