Our vision and ambition for the West End Residence was to create a dynamic contemporary residence that was bigger on the inside than the outside, that prioritized quality of space over quantity, and that turned the conventional Adelaide notion of ‘bigger is better’ on its head.

Located in Adelaide City’s eclectic west end on a narrow site, a contemporary 2-level design approach complimented the mixture of uses, building forms and materials in the immediate streetscape including local heritage cottages, a contemporary residence, garages and a warehouse.

We made two key design moves with this project. Our first move was to remake the conventional developer-driven townhouse façade into a unique and individual public sculptural statement with a camouflaged entrance. The second move was to unpack the conventional cellular interior and promote an open plan, creating a large central atrium/urban courtyard filled with natural light from a retractable roof and surrounding it with an array of veiled layered living spaces perched above and to either side.

Adelaide City Council was cautious at first but worked closely with us to explore and develop the sculptural façade and camouflaged entry concept. The result is a high quality, contemporary, assertive and secure-looking facade with a tilting operable wall at ground level and a dynamic cantilevered form perched over the entry. Operable hatches and vertical louvres in the façade give the building personality throughout the day and night and act as an adjustable filter between the public and private realm.

Plentiful daylight, natural ventilation and thermal mass in concrete floors and walls moderate room temperature fluctuations and reduce reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning and reduce power consumption. Timber battens throughout the exterior and interior reveal a softer side to the building, a simple and timeless warehouse/industrial aesthetic and material palette comprising concrete, timber, refined steel detailing and glass, creating a sense of quality, expansiveness, capacity and visual relief.

This project explores design strategies capable of preserving the suburban ideals of space, light, texture, materiality, openness, authenticity and connection to nature, without perpetuating prevailing cultural preferences for bigger houses, darker lower quality interiors, and escalating energy costs.