Subiaco House by Vokes and Peters is radical by stealth. It wears the uniform of its Federation-era neighbourh­ood with polite grace: timber bay windows on street elevations; an exuberant hat of terracotta tiles; rainwater heads like neat broaches on notched lapels; and its rafters, battens and struts glimpsed in flashes of the petticoat. The home’s finely detailed interiors are rich with material and tectonic expression, in tile, stone, concrete, metal and timber. Skirts and cornices are there but not there. Neat ankles touch down lightly.

This polite heritage response belies the home’s true radical heart. Its planning subverts the object-inlandscap­e, “garden suburb” type. The ground-floor wall extends to the site boundaries, transformi­ng from bay window to gate to arbor, fence to screen, engaged seating, entry, circulatio­n. It harnesses the “public” front garden of the house, coopting it into the private space of the house, while also cunningly giving it back to the street. Inside and outside are drawn together, as are public and private. The suburban corner is held by an occupiable cloister edge, as if the Federation house figure-ground diagram now has intriguing shades of grey at its periphery. It is an expansive and radical rethinking of the suburban garden fence.

From the Houses Awards jury.

For further coverage see Architectu­re Australia July/August 2019.

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