Another fantastic Open House Perth

Man…how great was Open House Perth this year?! I really enjoyed the whole weekend. A big two days of walking with so many great things to see. A big congrats and thankyou to all the team at Open House, its really heartening to see so many happy volunteers on a hot hot weekend to show people around, and taking time out of their usual lives. I really appreciated the architects taking the time to show us around, when you think they must have done it over and over again, and were probably getting a bit over it by the afternoon. Some of the young architects / student guides were really impressive too, what a great experience and well done in tough conditions keeping your patience and ensuring people were engaged and given all the facts. I’m not sure I would have had the confidence / skill to do that at 19 years of age. Its the people of these events that really make it so enjoyable, so thanks to all involved for adding to the experience of our day.

So highlights for me? Mt Eliza Apartments was really interesting. A fascinating look into sealed living (and you would need to with that fierce wind!) and utilising the 360 degree opportunity for views. This visit was a good chance to contemplate how living, and our priorities, have changed over the last fifty years. The units were compact, with fairly low ceilings, and the space probably difficult to fit out, due to the circular shape. The actual unit we visited was a renovation, joining two half-floor apartments, into one. The half floor units would actually be quite small as single units, with limited storage. But the unit has a beautiful sense of light with all those windows, and amazing that they used tinted double glazing back in the day – why are we so against using it now? I can imagine it would be a beautiful space to spend time in, able to with a front-row seat to watch as the city progresses, and the changing of the seasons through the adjacent trees; what an interesting location.  We were advised the circular shape was due to the setbacks required on the plot of land, but you can see it would be a difficult shape, and this is probably why it hasn’t really been repeated in Perth.

The exhibition at AUDRC was really good – try and see it while its still on if you can. I don’t know how they managed to get their hands on all these previous proposals for the foreshore, but its a fascinating insight into how ideas have changed over time – and how they haven’t! There’s a great video too, showing the changing ideas of the times. Really well done. I loved the overarching continuous musical theme of water flowing – it was a good metaphor for the ebb and flow of ideas in this zone – infilling the river, emptying the river, roads going through, roads going around…really well done.

The Bishops See gardens were also great, I didn’t even realise this site was here. I obviously need to get out more – thanks Open House! A very welcome cooling respite from our warm walking, and I enjoyed looking through the gardens towards the different eras of building forms.

I am glad I finally got to Council House after missing it last year. A beautifully patterned facade with some great views. The  timber inside was really well crafted and clean detailing showcasing the function of the building. So glad this building was restored in the late 90s, rather than demolished. its hard to imagine the city skyline without this landmark now.

The presentation on the restoration of the Treasury Buildings was really interesting. The restoration works are being undertaken in a very faithful manner ie replacing slate roof tiles, dormer windows and decorative lacework which had been removed over years of occupation of the site. This is interesting, as there are not many places were this type of ‘true’ restoration occurs. I know the current guidelines are that there is no point to restore things that have been removed, as in a way it is only holding on to a part of history that no longer exists. One year old roof tiles are not the same as hundred year old roof tiles. But in a way i found this attempt to recreate the past quite an intriguing idea. In the end it the restored building will be a unique reflection of past and present construction techniques and materials. I am really looking forward to how this group of buildings, and the whole precinct, will all come together – hopefully by next year’s Open House Perth we’ll be able to see some more progress!

I saw some beautiful renovation reuse projects. The Primewest offices in Hay St were beautiful, with large roof areas of translucent sheeting and exposed jarrah rafters creating a really functional big work space. The glazing suites separating the office spaces were really neat and clean and the finishes throughout created such a beautiful feeling. The renovation of the Rialto terraces was also a major highlight! I wish i could show photos of this, but they are forbidden to be published by the artist owner. It was a teeny unit but amazingly bright and spacious, with large two storey glazed walls on either side. From the moment of stepping over the threshold I was surprised, the design was so clever. Walking straight into a small open-air courtyard sitting space before entering the unit proper, had such a nice feel and you can just imagine how welcoming this would feel, living right in the middle of Northbridge but with your own oasis right inside the door. Brilliant.

Interestingly, I visited two different houses, both situated on sites only 6m wide. Nash+Ghersinich designed a lovely three-storey studio/house in Church St that really utilised views at the front and back – a park at the back of the property, and views to the city from the front. A large void through the centre brought swathes of light through the space, and an adjacent block to the west was used as the garden. This block is an identical block, which can be built on in the future. It was really interesting to see this too, to appreciate the small scale of the block and the large amount of living space that has been achieved on this plot. This was a nice lesson in considered use of space – each part of the house was designed to be multi-functional, and with the purpose to display the owners’ large collection of stunning artworks. The outlook through to the park beyond was so well-delivered. Amazing how something so small could have such a great feeling of space. The other 6m-wide project was the Florence St Residence by Klopper Davis. This was very funky, and once again a great use of very limited space. Although this one was even narrower (generally) at 4.2m wide, to allow for a narrow lap pool on the north side. Large windows and concrete floor and ceiling (on the Ground Floor), and the heightened ceilings on the top floor, gave the small house a great spacious feel. And so many neat little details – of course the space invaders motif corbelled into the wall, both inside and outside, but also little things like the timber panelling on the fence, the polished wall finish, the pink screen at the entrance, the concrete planter outside the main bedroom.

So yes, so so so many good places this year. I hope you all enjoyed the day – what were your favourite places?

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