Just as the tortoise beats the hare, so too does the modest beat the lavish. At least, it did at this year’s Houses Awards.
Auchenflower House by Vokes and Peters might have been an unsuspecting winner for the top accolade (the Australian House of the Year award), but it is exactly this element of surprise that the jury liked most about the project. Commenting on its “restraint and elegance” as well as its “straightforward application […] of utilitarian materials”, the jury described Auchenflower House as being “as much about what hasn’t been done as what has been done to the original home”.
Vokes and Peters’ alteration and addition to this modest timber cottage was the result of extensive research into the vernacular of Queensland’s built environment. Specifically, the architects focused on the immediate suburban context of Auchenflower, and the local characterisations of corner dwellings.
In the words of the Houses Awards jury: “The architectural language is derived from a celebration of the existing structure and the suburban context in which it sits.”
The familiar language of the traditional Queenslander house is still eminently evident in Vokes and Peters’ reinterpretation. Viewed from the street, Auchenflower House looks like a typical timber house-on-stilts in the familiar white tones of Australian suburbia. The rear extension takes more creative license, but its pitched form and battened structure still inspires an esoteric variation of déjà vu.
The new extension features a careful adaptation of the traditional battened back stair, which winds up forming the pivotal motif for Auchenflower’s side elevation. Though modestly designed, the newly applied white battens also provide a striking graphic element that forms in response to the site’s slope.
A significant aspect of the project was the reorientation of the home to facilitate a stronger connection with the garden. As a result of this shift, a rearrangement of internal living spaces was required. This careful modification was done with the same intention of bringing the garden closer to the occupant.