Four progressive ideas for alternative housing options in Canberra have been unanimously selected as winners of the New Experimental Architectural Typologies (NEAT) competition by the Australian Institute of Architects' ACT chapter.

The competition, announced earlier this year, invited entrants to come up with viable concepts for innovative and compact dwellings that would be suitable for Canberra in the 21st century, as well as challenge its current planning rules.

The first prize went to Melinda Dodson Architects for the submission, Hi House, a scheme offering vertically organised flexible housing that can be adapted over time with elevated external spaces.

Designed by Dodson with team members Tim Dyer, Candice Andrews and Phoebe Gordon, each house has two front doors – upper and lower – with floor layouts flexible for single level living on each, or an office studio on the lower floor with living spaces above. Car spaces are also flexible and interchangeable with the garden.

“This is an intelligent and sophisticated look at higher density in Canberra; an approach which questions prevailing attitudes while providing a sensitive and thoughtful alternative,” the judges commented.

Rob Henry was named runner-up for his proposal (pictured below) which challenged various Territory planning standards and supported the notion of the ‘bush capital’ – private open space is submerged into sunken courtyards and living areas below ground, which maximises green spaces over dwellings.

The third prize was given to Nobbs Radford Architects' FAMILY house, while the fourth prize went to Kieran McInerney for N.E.A.T STREET.


FAMILY house by Nobbs Radford Architects

N.E.A.T Street by Kieran McInerney

The prize pool included individual international travel grants worth up to $10,000, and the opportunity for entrants’ submissions to be considered for implementation through the ACT Community Services Directorate and Defence Housing Australia.

Ideas generated through the competition may also provide a tangible basis for the ACT Planning Authority to consider in the drafting of future planning regulations.

The competition, jointly held by the AIA, Land Development Agency, Environment and Planning Directorate, and Defence Housing Australia, was judged by Alan Morschel, David Sutherland, Alix Kaucz, Kristi Jorgensen and Hoa luu.