In small projects – you need to think of every detail. This was the philosophy behind the creation of Branch Studio Architects’ own studio – Orchard Studio and subsequent project – The Pump House. Both projects measure in at less than 70 m2 each and share a number of traits, materials and methods. On the inside, the most obvious similarity is the use of Ecoply as ceiling and wall lining, and joinery material.
When conceptualising the Orchard Studio, Architect Brad Wray found inspiration in old rural sheds from childhood country trips. This resulted in the use of found, discarded, corrugated iron sheets as the exterior cladding, complete with flaking paint. But inside, Wray knew he wanted to use plywood to clad the ceiling, floor and some walls to add warmth and ensure a bold contrast to the exterior. Wray explained that he chose Ecoply CD Grade because, ‘we wanted the knots and the grain. It feels robust and raw. Hoop pine would be too crisp, too refined.’ Wray’s love of timber is also evident in the joinery that was laser-cut to size, leaving a black burned edge that accentuates the layering of the ply.
As demonstrated in the Orchard Studio, attention to sustainability is core to the practice. And Ecoply has the credentials to meet these needs – manufactured by Carter Holt Harvey using timber sourced from renewable plantation forests and an ‘A’ Bond with the equivalent of Super E0 formaldehyde emissions. It’s also lightweight and extremely durable. The ply was used in full sheet form in both projects to reduce wastage.
The other key factor in choosing Ecoply was cost. In the Pump House, Architect Nicholas Russo knew he wanted to achieve a warm, cocoon-like interior but the budget wouldn’t allow for hardwood lining. Rather than resort to veneers that are less durable, Russo opted for inexpensive Ecoply lining, again in CD Grade. Russo described Ecoply as, ‘a material of integrity. It’s more heavy-duty. It’s better than veneer because if it gets banged up, knicked or dented, it’s still plywood underneath.’
Both Wray and Russo worked closely with the carpenter on detailing and ease of construction. Linings on both projects were fixed with stainless steel square-drive hex screws which provides an element of versatility – if you need to make changes and get behind the wall or into the ceiling, it’s easy to take off a sheet and then replace it.
In small spaces it’s this kind of forward thinking that makes the space work harder.