The work of architecture and design Sans-Arc Studio spans multiple sectors and Australian states. What attracted Sans-Arc Studio director Matiya Marovich to this particular residential project in Canberra was the challenge: to design a compact, new house on a limited budget — to heritage specifications.
The Ainslie site was previously host to an asbestos-riddled home, purchased and demolished by the ACT government, with the land sold to the current owners. Despite being a new build, its location in the Wakefield Gardens Housing Precinct limited the house to 127 square metres (as per the original dwelling) and required the near-exact external appearance to be replicated. ‘The compact footprint, strict setbacks, and heritage restrictions were the main challenges in the project, but naturally provided the biggest opportunity for creativity,’ says Matiya.
Sans-Arc Studio’s subsequent exterior design largely mimics the original dwelling with its painted white brick exterior, terracotta tiled roof, and arched entryway. The only major variation is the setback from the northern boundary, where sliding glass doors open the interior to a sunken outdoor dining space.
Integral to the new house is an internal courtyard inserted at the centre of the floor plan. The home’s three bedrooms, two bathrooms and open-plan living domain wrap around this outdoor space, achieving an openness to counteract the relatively compact footprint.
Matiya says the interior aims to be ‘a little unexpected for Ainslie.’ He explains, ‘Our intention was to sit within the band of modern-Australian style, maintaining a simplicity and authenticity throughout. Nothing over the top, logical, yet beautiful.’ Door handles designed in collaboration with Bankston Architectural add a subtle sculptural element tied to the decorative features of the original home.
While limiting the house to 127 square metres was a heritage requirement, this enabled a more affordable project overall. Construction costs amounted to around $510,000 (excluding GST) — lower than many new architect-designed houses in Australia.
‘For a new-build, three-bed, and two-bath home, this is great. This was achieved by the limit on the footprint and a hyper-rational approach to functionality and beauty,’ says Matiya. ‘Much of the work we do as architects is unattainable or inaccessible for most of the population, particularly in the residential sphere. Working in commercial, civic, or public spaces is different, but generally the residential projects getting published and winning awards are quite expensive and for the very wealthy… It still may not be attainable for many people to build a house for half a million, but it certainly is more attainable than $1, $2 or $3 million.’
Sans-Arc have succeeded in ‘unlocking’ this home to offer good natural ventilation, natural light, and an openness to balance its compact nature. The result is warm and playful, while in keeping with its heritage neighbours.