Impressed with the student exhibition work of architects Jennifer McMaster and Jonathan Donnelly, a couple in search of a new home took a chance on Sydney–based emerging practice TRIAS Studio—cofounded alongside Casey Bryant—and commissioned the young architects’ first project in a suburban, coastal neighborhood north of New Castle, Australia.
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Wanting to downsize to a modest home they could retire in, the couple desired a minimalist and timeless design that was further refined in a highly collaborative process with the architects that spanned a year and a half. Sustainability was also at the forefront of the build, from the repurposing of post-war materials to the installation of solar panels that cover almost all of the clients’ electricity needs.
"This house is defined by a spirit of ‘less but better,’ with every decision a careful negotiation of longevity and value," the architects say of the project, named Three Piece House after its three pavilion-like structures set on a wedge-shaped site. "The project is also an excellent example of the unique solutions that can be pursued using the complying development process."
Clustered around a sunny courtyard, Three Piece House’s three volumes—a main house, comprising two volumes (one for living and the other for sleeping) connected via a sun-soaked reading corridor, and a free-standing guest studio—are oriented for optimal passive solar conditions, including access to cooling ocean breezes. Recycled brick paving ties the volumes together.
The building placement was further informed by flood control requirements. Instead of elevating the home on stilts, the architects raised the building on solid masonry platforms built of brick reclaimed from a demolished building and rendered in earthen-red tones to match the rusty reds of passing ships. The brick also adds thermal mass for reducing the home’s energy footprint.
"This gesture is both inherently sustainable, and an act of storytelling: the new home rests upon the bones of the building before it," say architects, noting the sustainably sourced silvertop ash cladding.
The restrained and resilient material palette of the exterior is echoed in the interior, which is dressed in timber floors, white walls, and plywood ceilings. Repurposed bricks and indoor greenery weave color throughout, while carefully curated pieces, many of which are of Scandinavian design, deliver timeless style.
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With an open-plan layout, tall ceilings, and large openings that pull the outdoors in, the Three Piece House feels much larger than its 1,227-square-foot size suggests. The project won the 2018 AIA NSW Architecture Award for new houses and the AIA Newcastle award for sustainability.
"Three Piece House is a dynamic and distinctive piece of architecture, and has brought beauty and dignity to a suburb not known for its architectural merit," the architects add. "It is a testament to small living in suburbia."
Related Reading: 10 Modern Structures That Use Brick in Interesting Ways
Builder/ General Contractor: GTS Constructions
Structural Engineer: Northrop
Landscape Design Company: Sustainable Surrounds
Cabinetry Design/ Installation: Trias / GTS Constructions