Small Development With Large Ambitions – promoting women in the building industry whilst engaging with the neighbourhood through innovative design.
Casa Connection is a small-scale residential infill project with a conscience – to support and encourage more women into the building industry, and fight against disengaged, low quality local development and urban sprawl.
As an architect, designing your own home is a fairly common occurrence. But when you also become an owner builder, have your first baby, throw in a pandemic, a husband who thinks gourmet dinners consist of toasted cheese sandwiches and try to keep on top of your busy architecture and interior design practice……why not try to increase gender diversity in the building industry and encourage community engagement while you’re at it? Easy!?
THE GENDER DIVIDE
Women make up 2% of construction industry jobs*. It is widely acknowledged a lack of gender diversity in the workplace reduces economic productivity and constrains innovative capacity. According to the Victorian Minister for Industrial Relations, Tim Pallas, ‘Greater diversity makes our workplaces stronger. Greater representation of women in construction will benefit everyone in the industry.’ *
To focus on the potential of women in the construction industry, it has been my ambition to design and build this project with a female-based team. However, thus far, I have struggled to find suitably qualified women to take part, further highlighting the serious gender imbalance rife within the industry.
With population growth on the rise, the project demonstrates how densification of the suburbs can occur without sacrificing the existing neighbourhood character or amenity. In fact, the design intent is to enhance the local urban fabric, helping to shift public perception of such developments, making it far more likely to be accepted by the community and then fondly embraced by other small developers (fingers firmly crossed!).
Casa Connection is a compact 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home neatly nestled behind the recently renovated 100 year old terracotta roofed bungalow where we currently reside. The floor plans appear compact, yet the double height spaces and raked ceilings provide volumetric relief and a sense of playfulness throughout the interiors. By using the humble terracotta tile as both a roof and wall cladding, the roof appears to lower itself toward the ground and reduce its sense of scale in relation to its surroundings.
Before the renovation, the neighbours were surprised by our decision to retain the existing bungalow, given its state of disrepair, but with beautiful bones and gorgeous features, why demolish a potentially perfect, character filled dwelling that’s been a part of the community for over 100 years?
It is rare to find private property that provides amenity to the public. To challenge this notion, and to encourage community connection and social interaction, the front fence of the existing bungalow will offer a fully integrated public bench seat and street library to swap books and provide offerings to be shared amongst the community. Flexible timber batten fencing with openable sections are proposed to the side laneway, providing residents the option to invite public interaction or privately retreat. This will also help improve safety and usability of the side and rear laneways through enhanced visibility and connection. We hope this development may act as a precedent for other residents to open up their built environment in a similar way, offering a new type of public space to the neighbourhood.
Connection is further explored by interconnecting both properties via a sliding gate between garden spaces, making it the perfect setup for multigenerational living and social interaction. Both properties offer ways for residents to connect, not only with each other, but with the wider community – something which seems so relevant in this unprecedented period of isolation in suburban Melbourne where we crave small moments of interaction with one another.
Casa Connection’s proposed terracotta roof form and roughcast rendered brick is reminiscent and respectful of the existing bungalow and surrounding neighbourhood character. The materiality offers excellent thermal properties, contributing positively to the passive design approach undertaken for the home. Careful consideration was made to orient the new building to not only minimise environmental impact, but also eliminate overshadowing and overlooking. The thermal mass and living spaces have been orientated to utilise northern light in different ways throughout the year, ultimately minimising the need for mechanical heating and cooling.
The intention is there, now let’s find the time to build this baby!