A blueprint for a home that innovatively integrates forgotten elements of design in a contemporary urban framework has won the inaugural dWELL design competition organised by the Lake Macquarie City Council.

The design contest challenged industry professionals and tertiary architecture students to design a new style of home with wellness, innovation, affordability and sustainability at its heart.

Conceptualised by Newcastle architecture firm Curious Practice, the winning design in the professional category proposes a lifestyle that promotes sustainability and wellbeing across the site and beyond. It also calls for key elements of ageing housing stock set for demolition to be reused to save on materials and maintain some of the aesthetics of traditional suburban homes.

Curious Practice’s design features flexible indoor spaces that allow the home’s layout and use to be changed to suit the resident family’s evolving needs, while smart technology keeps tabs on water and energy use, and strategic design minimises the need for air-conditioning.

Important design elements also included communal outdoor spaces and public access to some areas to bring people together, said David Antcliff, manager property and business development.

“The dWELL contest aimed to shed light on innovative new housing design that put wellness and sustainability before simply maximising a developer’s profit per square metre,” he said.

“We wanted to draw on the creativity and passion of professional architects and tertiary students from across Australia to see what their vision was for the next generation of housing in Lake Macquarie and other urban areas.”

Antcliff added that the design entries provided valuable insights for the Council’s Housing Strategy, which outlined the need for more medium density housing across Lake Macquarie to handle the predicted growth of up to 28,000 new residents over the next 15 years.

The dWELL competition

Participants in the contest were asked to design two dwellings on a vacant block of Council-owned land on Ocean Street in Dudley. The site provided a real-life setting for contestants to consider and work around.

Curious Practice director Warren Haasnoot said that their design team sought to reduce the building footprint and make the home more open to the surrounding environment.

“I think we can be more adaptive and responsive to the environment in which we live,” he said.

“The joy that comes from that, in terms of appreciating that connection back to nature is something that is lost in, I guess, a broad section of the housing that’s being built.”

The dWELL judging panel included representatives from the University of Newcastle (UoN), Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW and Planning Institute of Australia NSW.

Dr Chris Tucker from UoN’s School of Architecture and Built Environment described the winning design by Curious Practice as ‘a stand-out’.

“It comprehensively looked at issues of sustainability and the technology that it was employing is really an old technology but something that I think that we’ve perhaps forgotten in our new houses,” Dr Tucker said.

“These houses are around 170sqm and 100sqm, so they are smaller than the average, but they are more spacious. They have higher ceilings, they use outside spaces, they draw them inside the house to make that house feel larger.”

The InBetween House was the winner of the competition’s student category. Designed by a University of Melbourne architecture students’ team, the design envisages two modular homes on the site, with separate levels that could be adapted for use as a home office, accommodation for multiple generations in a family or as separate housing units.

“One of the themes we saw consistently across all finalists was a much greater focus on our connection to nature, blurring that line between indoors and outside, and an emphasis on the importance of connecting with our neighbours and the community,” Antcliff said.

“If we do move ahead with these designs, community consultation will form an important part of the process,” he added.

Image: Curious Practice director Warren Haasnoot with a model of their winning dWELL entry / Supplied