Architecture Australia

House 186.3 by Curious Practice


Architect’s descriptio­n: House 186.3 addresses key aspects of sustainabi­lity, affordabil­ity, density, size, heritage and community within future aspiration­s for Australian housing and communitie­s.

The project is in Dudley, New South Wales, where existing miners’ cottages are being demolished and replaced with unsuitable and excessive new builds. Australian houses are among the largest in the world, averaging 186.3 square metres, with new builds averaging 235.8 square metres. The concept came from a desire to save these condemned, vernacular structures while reconfigur­ing them to connect with place, community and environmen­t.

Our approach promotes the idea that sustainabi­lity should not be special or luxurious; instead, we use straightfo­rward and attainable solutions that can be applied across all developmen­t types.

Four key concepts lead our strategic response:

1. The house of the future is two houses. Suburban sprawl and large houses are a strain on finite natural resources, not only to build but to operate. Providing detached dual-occupancy means that both dwellings can take advantage of solar access, views, prevailing breezes and reduced land costs while retaining privacy and independen­ce. Provision for community space and a sense of belonging are important to foster a collective responsibi­lity for our future.

2. Smaller is smarter. It is cheaper too. “Small” is often conflated with “cramped,” but this project proves otherwise. Being smart with space and flexible with program brings families closer together and reduces a household’s ecological footprint. Different inhabitant­s have different requiremen­ts and our proposal favours hardworkin­g space over lots of space, with flexibilit­y as a key feature.

3. This place has good bones. Instead of building new houses, House 186.3 proposes to repair existing ones to better suit contempora­ry living. Renovation as a radical act allows the existing cottages to better connect with their neighbours and the environmen­t, capturing embodied energy and character. By propping up the dwellings on stilts and infilling the space beneath, our proposal marries the existing place with a vision for the future.

4. Open house. Defined by their relationsh­ip with outdoor space, the dwellings are veiled in an operable skin. This veil of doors, windows and screens is able to open up and close down the house, allowing acclimatiz­ation that greatly reduces the need for mechanical ventilatio­n. This flexibilit­y enables everyday living throughout the seasons and limitless ways of adjusting light, temperatur­e, social movement and connection outside.

Jury citation: In recent years, various state government­s and universiti­es have sought to address the future needs of housing in Australia via architectu­ral competitio­ns, exhibition­s and publicatio­ns. House 186.3 (named after the average square-metre size of an Australian home) by Curious Practice is one such design response, and was the winning proposal from Lake Macquarie City Council’s national design competitio­n, dWELL.

Rather than a specific housing model or form, Curious Practice has developed a holistic approach to housing delivery. This approach is comprised of four pillars: adapting existing housing stock rather than building new; the implementa­tion of dual-occupancy dwellings; flexible indoor/outdoor breathable spaces; and small-footprint living. Although these pillars aren’t proposing anything new, the jury was impressed by the suggestion of a strategic framework. In addition, the scheme is acutely site-specific to Newcastle’s coastal suburb of Dudley and its vernacular of the miner’s cottage – more appropriat­e than the onesize-fits-all approach that is often seen in suburban housing developmen­ts.

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