Keperra House

Keperra House

Keperra QLD, Australia - Build completed in 2012
Alicia Taylor

Keperra House

Atelier Chen Hung (A-CH) as Architects

Keperra is a post-war suburb North West of Brisbane CBD, once occupied by the military camps in the 1940’s and later with the development of Housing Commission in the 1950’s. The brief to add a detached sole occupant flat on the existing property presents an opportunity to rethink the typology of the secondary dwelling, commonly dubbed as the ‘granny flat’. The client’s downsize move to this new dwelling means the existing house is able to yield additional rental income.

Positioned along the rear boundary of the property, the new structure displays a defensive Southern facade to form backdrop to a mature Jacaranda tree. The central covered deck space establishes ground connections with the newly defined garden while serving as an arrival court. This punctured void in the massing sets up a framed view of the landscape for the garden and the existing house. The dwelling is deliberately made to open up the Northern facade on to the natural settings of Kedron Brook creek reserve. With the footprint kept at a minimum of 45m2, the small spaces amplify the sense of dwelling in nature. This rare edge condition between site, suburb and parkland has the potential for the occupant to have a connection with the daily activities of the parkland life.

The elongated plan is paired with generous openings that extend the interior to the landscape beyond, while screening devices allow control of privacy from the occasional parkland strollers. A string of three connecting rooms essentially makes up the plan: living, semi-outdoor and sleeping. Each designated with an individual framing of expansive, intermediate and protected views respectively in response to the undulating landscape. These composed and at times oblique apertures enhance one’s sense of openness, immediacy and intimacy.

The semiAtelier Chen Hung Press Submission p2 outdoor deck is the main breakout space and designed for the occupant to circulate across on a daily basis, it heightens one’s awareness of the changing environmental conditions.

Robust construction detailing are utilised throughout the project, and resilient materials are used primarily in their raw state to deliver a low maintenance dwelling within a constrained budget. The chiseled, board marked in-situ concrete has a rock like quality, emerging to form anchorage to the sloping land. Capped atop by the sharp edged galvanized cladding, its surface subtly reflects the seasonal color transition of the surrounding foliage. The oversized folded galvanised gutter also doubles as a sunshade device over large Northern openings. Internal spaces on the contrary display a sense of warmth and softness, with the use of materials such as locally sourced Cypress Pine and Hoop Pine plywood panels throughout. Material palettes have been kept simple to achieve a restrained and functional space, where storage units and amenities integrate within concealed joinery wall.

The project seeks to experiment the daily pleasures of compact dwelling. Sustainability Summary Passive design strategies are adopted in favour of high tech solutions. The folded metal sheet projection on the northern façade serves as a rainwater collector, and it is also integrated as an awning to provide shade. While the summer sun is screened, the winter sun is maximised for heating the interior concrete floor to provide thermal comfort. Rainwater harvesting system supplies water to laundry and toilet suite, to reduce usage from the water mains. The house generally operates without the need for artificial heating or cooling. A substantial Jacaranda tree that we wanted to retain occupies most of the backyard from the existing three-bedroom cottage. In order to avoid interrupting the root systems, the buildable area is restrictive around the rear boundary line.

Which also contributed in the compactness of the building footprint. Priority is placed on sensible siting and orientation to optimise Northern solar gain while minimising Western solar exposure. The house is designed around the existing vegetation to provide shade and privacy. The narrow linear plan in conjunction with large openings is designed to encourage natural cross ventilation, while a reduction of openings on the southern facade provides shield to the winter southwest winds. The compactness and simplicity of the building form contributes generally to the reduction in material usage.

Locally sourced materials such as White Cypress Pine cladding/decking is from managed forestry in South Western Queensland, while the Hoop Pine plywood lining is also locally produced and sourced from managed plantation forestry. Galvanised steel sheet is a durable, 100% recyclable and self-finished material. The board marked in-situ concrete applied with waterproof penetrating sealer minimises the need for maintenance throughout the lifespan of the house. The secondary dwelling becomes a downsized home for the client who works overseas most of the time, without the need to purchase another property. While the existing cottage at the front yields additional rental income. With the rise of the single person households and the shifting social demography, this arrangement encourages a more efficient use of existing suburban land and contributes to the social sustainability within its community.

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