Steendijk Green House | ArchitectureAU

Located in the Brisbane’s inner suburb of Spring Hill, Green House is the third project designed by Brian Steendyk to occupy the same section of narrow street – and the second such that Brian has designed for himself. Comprising renovations to traditional Queensland homes, this collection of neighboring designs reveals the consistency of ideas in Brian’s practice over more than twenty years, including a genuine concern to preserve the special character of the suburbs as one of Brisbane’s oldest residential areas. But Green House also presents a departure: Building on lessons from past projects, Brian approached the new house with more willingness – and confidence – to explore bolder, more expressive architecture.

As a result, this modest-scale house on a site of two hundred square meters is teeming with ideas. Each room is filled with new design solutions that pursue simplicity and durability, while each room has its own set of custom-designed details and amenities. It is a life-size experiment, a veritable test bed for architecture, where each room is redesigned from first principles. The concrete blocks are glued together, eliminating the need for mortar, and the stainless steel umbrellas double as planters to create a green curtain of foliage that filters sunlight. Unsurprisingly, the result is unlike anything else in contemporary residential architecture in Queensland. It avoids the notion of style and stands out from recent creations from Brisbane. What’s most impressive about the house, however, is how Brian has brought together his intricate mix of ideas, spaces and materials into a whole that’s more than the sum of its parts.

To a large extent, this unity is achieved through the extensive use of steel – a material that rarely figures so prominently in contemporary Queensland homes. Indeed, the presence of steel is remarkable not only because of the region’s long and romantic association with wooden construction, but also because this traditional language has been superseded in recent decades by a contemporary vernacular in concrete and masonry. But what’s interesting about Green House is the way steel is used to reinvent traditional forms, and to restore the thinness and lightness that was once so characteristic of Queensland architecture. Concretely, steel allows for a range of structural and spatial solutions: the two bedrooms and the attic of the existing wooden cottage from the 1890s float above the open living spaces and the bedroom/library on the ground floor, which are not encumbered by the structure. Likewise, the corten steel staircase seems to hover in weightlessness, connecting the lowest levels while maximizing usable space with its 10 millimeter thick thin walls. A custom-designed spiral staircase made of even thinner sheet steel provides access to the attic and consumes minimal floor space. As Brian says, “Steel makes magic possible”.

Steel also allows for precision, and Green House components are engineered with millimeter precision to get the most out of every part of the building and site. This rigor and accuracy is typical of Brian’s work, which can often come across as giant pieces of industrial design. Of course, such precision requires care and planning – it’s no surprise that this house took three years to complete. It also establishes a strict and rational framework that brings together the different new and old parts of the building into a complex whole. But the rigor that underpins the design is not celebrated for its own sake. On the contrary, it is a way to remove or reduce the visual weight and clutter of the structure, emphasizing instead the qualities of space and the richness of the material palette. It is important to note that repurposed hardwoods, wooden joinery and brass countertops can retain their natural variations and patinas. They soften the harshness of steel and glass and contribute to the comfort and character of interiors, warm and easy-going spaces, not despite the meticulousness of the design, but because of it.

These ideas culminate in the creation of an exterior room, framed by a soaring steel gate, which shields the living spaces from rain and summer sun while allowing winter light to penetrate deep into the plan. While the notion of an ‘outdoor room’ has become a cliché in Queensland property, it takes on a unique expression here with bent corten slabs stretched around the garden to contain both the sky and the landscape. Made of three millimeter thick sheet steel, the roof and walls are completely self-supporting, using folds to eliminate the need for additional structure. Their sculpted surfaces also play in the sunlight, creating patterns of warm orange and dark shadow that draw the eye through the home to the outside and extend the interior’s perceived boundaries to the full extent of the building. site. None of this is by chance. The effects of light on steel and the reduction of structure to a bare minimum are calculated experiments executed with care and precision. It is the same rigorous approach that has shaped every part of this exemplary project, demonstrating an intensification of spatial ideas and material explorations developed over the years. More than that, Steendijk’s Green House is also a demonstration of the inherent potential of the traditional Queensland house itself, and its ability to be reinvented and remade.

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