Even in moderate-sized dwellings, sharp edges plus clumsy hip movements equals a recipe for injury. At least, in this author’s experience.
Apparently, the architects at March Studio were familiar with this same margin of error. So when the call came to renovate a teeny, tiny Falls Creek studio with barely enough room for a hip-rolling swagger, curves came to seem like the best course of action.
Clearly, being curvy paid off. Bobhuski, as the project came to be known as, recently won the top accolade in the Houses Awards 2017 ‘Apartment or Unit’ category. Delightfully described as a “1970s Japanese space capsule”, the lean 27-square-metre space is a nod to the Metabolism movement within Japanese architecture; a movement which gave rise to “a typology that highlights how little the house and apartment typology has changed”, according to the Houses Awards jury.
Specifically, March Studio looked to Ekuan Kenji’s 1962 Capsule House and Kurokawa Kisho’s “socially optimistic” 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower as inspiration for Bobhuski.
But to dismiss this project as simply nostalgic would be a mistake, warned the jury. The project’s use of past practices to address problems of space are more relevant now than ever.
“To misinterpret the historic architectural quotations in this project as ‘scenographic’ or ‘nostalgic’ would be a mistake,” reads a statement from the jury. “It is timely for architects to engage with history and ideas that might provide a springboard for future thinking.”
From the “space capsule” architecture of Japan, March Studio took their form-fits-function approach to the project. The curved surfaces of Bobhuski are one example of this; the reorientation of the entrance was another. By moving the front door from the balcony to a more central access thoroughfare, the architects were able to conceive of a more amenable orientation for the rest of the home. The 3.5-metre by 10.2-metre floorplan was divided into two separate zones: open-plan living and dining at the front, sleeping and bathing quarters towards the back.
Despite this separation of zones, their relative functions aren’t rigid. Knowing full well that flexibility is key to any small space, March Studio incorporated a zone whose purpose could be reimagined with the simple tug of a lever, or turn of a key. Here, a fold-down Queen-sized bed turns common room to bedroom in moments, and a series of “secret” storage solutions – such under-seat storage and a hidden lockable cupboard behind the fridge – make a habit out of tromp l’oeil.
But what good are tricks of the eye if you can’t see anything at all? The final challenge faced by the architects was how to coax light into this slender space. To this effect, several pill-shaped, light-bringing openings were incorporated throughout the design: a large, double-glazed window above the L-shaped couch in the living room, and a similarly-shaped “skylight” of LEDs that stretches through the apartment. The brightness of this latter lightbox can be controlled, so while it feels like natural sunlighting, its ambience can be called upon around the clock.