Restoring Architectural Law And Order In 'The Wild West'

In an increasingly difficult environment for those trying to enter the property market, there are a few shooting-star innovators carving out new approaches in urban development and design. Our love for Jeremy McLeod and the Nightingale project is no secret – and today we introduce the best from The West(!), Perth-based architectural practice Whispering Smith.

We chat with architect Kate Fitzgerald about the firm’s boundary-pushing practice, and the minimalist genius of House A. Fun fact – Whispering Smith takes its name from a 1950’s Western series about an underdog sheriff trying to restore law and order in the Wild West, which seems highly appropriate for this innovative and energetic architectural practice! Giddy-up!

Lucy Feagins

House A by Whispering Smith. Photo – Ben Hosking.

The clean concrete planes of House A. Photo – Ben Hosking.

House A is an apartment-house hybrid, exploring the potential of future housing options. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Minimal aesthetics, maximum living opportunities. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Kitchen details in House A. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Indoor/outdoor spaces abound. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Kitchen details. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Clever design makes use of all available space! Photo – Ben Hosking.

A small space for leading a big life. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Minimal chic. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Laundry with a view! Photo – Ben Hosking.

Agile planning negotiations can result in beautiful design outcomes. Photo – Ben Hosking.

Photo – Ben Hosking.

House A by Whispering Smith. Photo – Ben Hosking.

New design from the Wild West (Perth)! Photo – Ben Hosking.

Lucy Feagins
16th of August 2018

Architect Kate Fitzgerald of practice Whispering Smith describes the stunning ‘House A’ project as part of the architectural firm’s ‘boundary-pushing’ approach to the residential sector in WA. She explains, ‘there’s some incredible architectural talent here, but it’s been a bit diluted by a lot of low-quality mansion project homes, which is why we spend a lot of our time advocating for more innovative housing in Perth.’

House A certainly answers this brief for high-quality design! Kate describes this project as their ‘first foray into being a developer – we wanted to build a prototype for an apartment-house hybrid, to show people how small can be big if you work hard at the design’. Whispering Smith has worked hard to create a small space that supports big lived experiences!

The simple design of the house resembles a ‘house of cards’ through a clever stacking of concrete planes that fit together in a clean configuration. Kate cheerfully describes the design as more of an ‘oversized paperweight than a house!’ A minimalist design was deliberately pursued as both an aesthetic choice, and to reflect Whispering Smith’s broader ethos. Kate outlines how minimalism helps ‘reduce the physical and environmental footprint of our houses, at the same time as embracing simple, good design for a better life’.

Beyond designing actual homes, Whispering Smith has also become experts in negotiating and finding flexibility within the often bureaucratic planning process. Kate highlights how ‘Perth’s outdated and much-maligned planning system is a major barrier to quality design and innovation’. Through dogged persistence and manoeuvring, Whispering Smith is now in a position to help others navigate the treacherous terrain of planning!

For Kate, the process of designing House A has connected Whispering Smith with many young people who are locked out of the housing market. As a result, the architecture firm is eager to pursue new models of housing and design strategies to support big lives in smaller spaces. We are excited to see how this firm lasso planning policies into new design opportunities!

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