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woodstock lane

Pub: Sydney Morning Herald

Pubdate: 15-Nov-2003

Edition: Late

Section: Supplement


Page: 18

Wordcount: 319

Nest builder


Words Elizabeth Farrelly

ARCHITECT allan dukes BUILT 2002

You can see a house as a machine for living or you can see it as a nest, muses photographer Martin van der Wal.

“Personally, I think people nest.”

In 1986, Van der Wal and his partner, Susie Gilligan, had already built one house, a pole-frame construction at Brogo on the South Coast, but Sydney’s eastern suburbs demanded a completely different skill set.

Making up in persistence and ingenuity what they lacked in capital, they have produced a tiny gem of a house.

As well as maximising space, they wanted a loft bedroom, a curved roof and a warm but industrial feel to the building 01. This was the essence of their brief to local architect Allan Dukes.

Van der Wal, who studied Renaissance architecture at the University of Sydney, had designed the Brogo house around the “golden mean”, a Renaissance system of ideal proportion. At three metres by nine metres, the site in Bondi Junction lent itself to another Renaissance device, the “triune”, with the main living space comprising three, three-metre cubes.

Four two-storey portal frames formed the guts of the house, defining the living spaces on two levels. To the rear, the house’s working parts are compressed into a three-storey section 02.

Self-building is nerve-racking at best, but when the crane lowered the four portals into place, the fit was near-perfect. The weather skin came next: a two-layer corrugated-steel roof and rendered brick infill.

Van der Wal says the house plays on the duality of “austerity and haven”, and the materials were selected for rich textural diversity.

Throughout the process Van der Wal welcomed the role of happenstance. You make decisions quickly, based on “flow”, he says.

“A bird makes a nest from found objects.”


TWO ILLUS: Photography Martin van der Wal


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