Two white houses, with identical plans

By Penny Craswell

Two identical white rectangular houses placed at ninety degrees to each other in Melbourne’s East Malvern present an intelligent and cost-effective approach to residential design by Justin Mallia Architecture.

Oak Grove House. Photo: Shannon McGrath

Both buildings at Oak Grove feature the same folded front facade, derived from the site’s angular orientation to north, resulting in a geometry that breaks up what could have been a blocky appearance from the street, while enabling cross ventilation, north orientation and connection to outside. Read more

Highlights from Melbourne Design Week

By Penny Craswell

This year’s Melbourne Design Week centred on the topic “design values”, covering furniture, objects, installations, publishing and architecture. Apart from the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), the other key venue for exhibitions and events was Watchmakers, a temporary exhibition space in Collingwood donated by the owner of Piccolina Gelateria, who will be building their kitchen and gelateria in the space following the event. Folk Architects was responsible for its transformation, stripping back the space to its original patina and applying subtle use of mirrored Laminex to provide an ideal site for the experimental exhibitions within. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s event.

1. 26 Original Fakes

This exhibition at the Watchmakers venue by young designer/curators Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan of Friends & Associates challenged 26 designers to modify a fake Jasper Morrison Hal chair as a statement on Australia’s replica industry. The resulting show explored a huge range of issues, from authenticity, to ethics, to material concerns, with a dose of humour thrown in. I was very pleased to write the accompanying exhibition text myself – see my separate post. More on 26 Original Fakes.

Tom Skeehan (left) and Dale Hardiman (right), curators of 26 Original Fakes at Watchmakers, part of Melbourne Design Week. Image: supplied
Exhibition view of 26 Original Fakes. Photo: Wayne Taylor


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Defining the character of Australian architecture and design

By Penny Craswell

Australia’s relaxed outdoor lifestyle, unique natural beauty, history and culture are reflected in our approach to architecture. Seven architects and interior designers reflect on the character of Australian design.

House at Big Hill by Kerstin Thompson. Photo: Trevor Mein. Read more on The Design Writer blog.
House at Big Hill by Kerstin Thompson. Photo: Trevor Mein

Australian architects are influenced, like all architects, by the context of their project – whether that’s a bush setting, an ocean view or an urban laneway. In Australia, this sometimes means taking account of proximity to the bush, potential floods and fires, access to fresh water. Our tendency to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors has also had a huge influence on our design choices. Architect Peter Stutchbury believes this has an impact on our architecture: “Recreation permeates our thinking. Verandahs, gardens, courtyards, swimming pools, ponds, clothes lines, tree swings and vegetable gardens were all, until recently, integral to the design brief.” Read more

Melbourne house, with cloister

By Penny Craswell

While the word “cloister” evokes images of monks roaming crumbling monasteries, in fact the term merely refers to a covered walkway, usually with garden connections. Melbourne-based practice MRTN Architects has used the architectural device in a new alteration of a Victorian-era single-fronted terrace house in Carlton.

Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo:
Connecting old and new at Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo: Shannon McGrath

The addition to the house is placed at the back of the site, with the cloister connecting the two buildings. This layout has a number of benefits, offering an internal link between the two buildings while retaining valuable garden space. By orienting the cloister at the south of the site, the property also gains access to northern sunlight. Read more

Concrete photography by Rhiannon Slatter

By Penny Craswell

Melbourne-based architectural photographer Rhiannon Slatter recently held exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney of her artworks exploring concrete. The works form a series that moves between architectural photography and abstract photography, presenting concrete buildings as intersecting planes in shades of grey.

Concrete 01, Rhiannon Slatter, pigment ink on cotton rag
Concrete 01, Rhiannon Slatter, pigment ink on cotton rag

Many commercial architectural photographers also have an art practice, allowing them to create work for themselves rather than a client. This freedom brings with it a chance to experiment, not only with methodology, but also with new conceptual frameworks that can ultimately benefit the artist’s body of work as a whole.  Read more

OK Ice Cube installation at Seattle Design Festival

By Penny Craswell

Seattle-based architecture practice Olson Kundig (OK) created an ephemeral installation in Occidental Park as part of the Seattle Design Festival last month: a 10-tonne ice cube that slowly melted in the sun.

Ice Cube by Olsen Kundig as part of Seattle Design Festival. Photo: Eirik Johnson
Ice Cube by Olson Kundig as part of Seattle Design Festival. Photo: Eirik Johnson

The piece acts as a statement raising environmental awareness, providing visitors with a tangible metaphor for the melting ice caps, “marking the passage of time as its waters slowly return to the sea,” according to the architects, as well as “showcasing the stages of the natural water cycle as the ice shifts from opaque to translucent”. Read more

Review: SFMOMA extension by Snøhetta

By Penny Craswell

The new extension of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta presents a soaring, monumental face, despite the challenges of a restrained site. Spanning over 10 floors, the new extension nearly triples the exhibition space of the museum, creating white, light-filled gallery spaces connected by wide timber stairs.

SFMOMA façade of Snøhetta expansion; photo © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMASFMOMA façade of Snøhetta expansion; photo © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA
SFMOMA facade of Snøhetta expansion. Photo © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA


The old and new interiors are seamlessly integrated, with the new extension appearing to hug the side of the existing building, a series of brick-clad symmetrical volumes designed in 1995 by Mario Botta. In contrast to the bold, regular forms of the Botta building, the new design is introverted, expanding into the space but with its outer peripheries pinned back, clad in a white, rippling facade. Read more

Review: M+ Pavilion in Hong Kong

By Penny Craswell

The first permanent exhibition venue in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District has been completed – the M+ Pavilion, designed by three Hong Kong design teams: VPANG architects ltd, JET Architecture Inc and Lisa Cheung. The leaders of each team, Vincent Pang, Tynnon Chow and Lisa Cheung, first met in New York in 1999 and, despite their careers developing separately to this point, took this opportunity to come together, winning the competition entry to design the building.

Cantilievering over the grass, M+ Pavilion Hong Kong. Image: Courtesy of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and M+, Hong Kong
Cantilievering over the grass, M+ Pavilion Hong Kong. Image: Courtesy of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and M+, Hong Kong


The pavilion is set within the Art Park and offers a tranquil escape from the busy city centre, with gleaming facades that mirror the surrounding greenery of the park. The building is situated on a grassy slope with the upper level exhibition space cantilevering over the lawn below and offering views of the city and the harbour. Read more

Tiny Sydney terrace, opened out

By Penny Craswell

A four-metre-wide terrace in Sydney’s Surry Hills has been transformed from a dark, cramped space into a light-filled home with clean lines and balanced proportions thanks to architecture practice Benn & Penna.

Sydney Terrace by Benn & Penna. Photo: Tom Ferguson
Sydney Terrace by Benn & Penna. Photo: Tom Ferguson

The new bedrooms and bathrooms are located above an open-plan living space that opens onto intimate garden spaces at either end of the property. In order to increase the liveable space in the house, these have been treated as outdoor rooms. Read more

Review: Green Ladder pavilion by Vo Trong Nghia

By Penny Craswell

The latest Fugitive Structures pavilion to be commissioned by the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) is a bamboo structure called “Green Ladder” designed by architect du jour Vo Trong Nghia whose mission is to bring back greenery into the city via architecture, especially in his home country of Vietnam.

Green Ladder designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects for the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. Photo: Dianna Snape
Green Ladder designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects for the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. Photo: Dianna Snape

In my role as media consultant of the Fugitive Structures architecture pavilion series for SCAF, I was able to meet Nghia and also speak to him about the structure, as well as hear some behind-the-scenes details of the bamboo treatment process used on the installation. Read more