Josten Myburgh from Tone List chats to Eduardo Cossio and I about our recent release, ‘Sing, Shattering, A Poem in Reverse’.
Josten Myburgh from Tone List chats to Eduardo Cossio and I about our recent release, ‘Sing, Shattering, A Poem in Reverse’.
Recorded at NoizeMaschin 86 on 28 August, 2018. NoizeMaschin is a monthly exploratory music event at the Artifactory, a hackerspace in an industrial area of Boorloo/Perth. Thanks to Josten Myburgh and Justin Barwick for the recording, curation, and tech.
Audio recorded at Perth Artifactory with video from Lake Monger. Created in the lead up to the release of Lee / Cossio / O’Connor’s debut album, ‘Lakes’.
A little taster of Blind Spot’s Album ‘CHROMA’, releasing 14th December 2017.
Excerpts from Blind Spot (McLean), Sand Dunes (Hensey), Hammerman (Lee), Sweet Enigma (O’Connor).
In the lead up to the latest federal budget Ken Maher, national president of the Australian Institute of Architects, addressed parliament on future housing. Maher said, “as a key player in the development of the built environment, the architecture profession has the skills to deliver housing that addresses crucial issues, such as affordable living, sustainable design and flexible housing, providing savings in both upfront costs and the ongoing cost of occupation.” 1
The Breakdown of the Australian Dream
The traditional Australian dream of a detached house on a quarter acre block, a large yard and a Hills Hoist is under attack from two sides, sustainability of our cities and affordability of our homes. Cheap land, a desire for space and the family car resulted in sprawling low-density Australian cities, and as our cities have gotten bigger they have suffered increasing infrastructure problems. It costs us a huge amount of resources to build and service our suburban dream.
The other great issue affecting Australian cities is housing affordability. With property prices in major Australian cities soaring in the past decade the dream of everyone owning their own home is seemingly rapidly receding for younger generations.
To provide sustainable, affordable and desirable housing in the future there seems to be a developing consensus that our existing models are not working. The architects I spoke with agreed we need a diversity in housing forms. The projects they are working on look to medium density developments to provide flexible and interesting outcomes to the current challenges.
“Medium-density housing is generally more affordable because it requires less land. It is sustainable and, if designed well, it can create stronger and healthier communities and contribute to our cities’ resilience in the future.”2 – Ken Maher
I spoke with some key figures behind three developments in Perth and asked about their projects and their views on how architecture can hope to contribute towards happily housing Australia’s cities in the future.
Baugruppen Whitegum Valley
“Baugruppen” which means building groups in German is a model where future owner-occupiers join together to become developers of their own separately titled homes. Led by former government architect Geoffrey London and designed by Spaceagency this project in White Gum Valley will be Australia’s first multi-unit Baugruppen and Western Australia’s first One Planet Community development.
“Baugruppen is a group that comes together and is assisted to become their own developer. Inevitably they develop projects that are of a higher design quality than what the market is delivering at a cheaper rate. They typically get into them for about 15% less. They also typically have a much higher level of ambition in terms of sustainability and they often incorporate shared facilities. What Baugruppen offers is a more affordable way into medium density housing and a way that community can regard it as being more community driven. I think there is a real readiness in the community for this kind of concept.”3 – Geoffrey London
Geoffrey London explained how the building plan is flexible, consisting of interchangeable stacked modules that range from 1 bedroom studios to double storey 3 bedroom dwellings. The clever use of a central core means that each module has no shared walls and also allows each apartment to have cross ventilation, natural light and private outdoor space. The design also includes shared facilities such as guest apartments, community gardens and outdoor living spaces.
The Baugruppen are able to achieve all this at a reasonable price mark, with 1 bedroom studios from $260,000 and 3 bedroom dwellings under $700,000 by cutting out a developer’s profit as well as sales and marketing fees. Another benefit of the residents taking control of the development is that the buildings are designed for their long-term needs rather than purely for maximum profit.
As part of this project, LandCorp and the University of Western Australia are collaborating in working towards creating a model that can be replicated across Australia.
Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project
The White Gum Valley Site is also home to the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project, a result of a competition by LandCorp that aimed to find “a practical demonstration of sustainable, flexible and cost effective dwellings to suit the 21st century.”4 The competition was won by David Barr’s “Step House” which consists of 3 one bedroom one bathroom apartments that appear as a single house. The project is designed “for a generation fast being priced out of the “Australian Dream”… (and) attempts to reconceptualise what is achievable when community, sustainability and cost are prioritised equally.”5
Given the average Australian house size of 241 sqm, it is refreshing to see a development that accommodates 3 dwellings on a 250 sqm site. According to David, the project “essentially falls between a standard residential home and a multiple apartment block. It is an apartment but it is of such a small scale that it reads more like a house and I think having smaller, multiple dwellings is actually a crucial way forward.”6 It is one that responds to shifting demographics in which single person households are becoming increasingly common.7 Despite their size, there is no sacrifice on liveability with each apartment having private as well as shared communal external areas, plenty of storage, generous ceiling heights and high thermal efficiency.
David Barr helped to keep the design cost effective by “keeping things simple…using standard construction techniques, rather than trying to explore extraordinary technologies. It’s a simple timber-framed construction, clad in a simple corrugated iron material and it then becomes a series of spatial arrangements that enable the delightfulness of the space and the volumes created outside.”8 Part of the research process involved finding out what Gen Ys actually wanted. “We found they were willing to forgo size for location. The other thing was minimal maintenance. The property had to be not only affordable to buy but affordable to live in long term so the cast-iron cladding won’t need painting or ongoing maintenance.”9
Just down the road from White Gum Valley is the site of Perth’s first Nightingale Housing development, designed by EHDO Architecture. The Nightingale Model was founded by a group of Melbourne architects that deeply cared about the collection of issues surrounding sustainability, affordability and liveability of Australian cities.
The Nightingale and Baugruppen models share many similarities. Both make use of shared facilities and have sustainable and community-driven goals. The main difference in the Nightingale model is that it involves a group of ethical investors. In the Baugruppen model, the building group needs to raise their own equity to fund consultants, buy the land and start construction. In the Nightingale model, the ethical investors help to fund these initial costs however their profits are capped at 15% compared with the standard 30% earned by most developers.
The project is in detailed design stages at the moment, however, I caught up with Dimitri Kapetas, director at EHDO Architecture, to find out what to expect. There will be 12 apartments as well as 250 sqm of commercial space on the site. Surveys have recently been sent out to all interested buyers and their responses will be taken into account in the design.
There won’t be many one bedroom apartments as “the most expensive part of building apartments is the wet areas and you need the same amount of wet areas for a one bedroom as you do for a two bedroom. For 20sqm of bedroom spaces, the cost of the apartment only increases so much.”10 Instead, EHDO is exploring the idea of using removable walls to create flexible room arrangements within the apartments. The rooftop is a key element in the design which will include shared productive gardens, communal laundry and drying areas and a PV canopy that will account for 80% of the building’s power needs, helping to reduce operational costs. EDHO are also planning to include short term stay apartments on the roof level that will be available for Nightingale tenants to rent out from the body corporate if someone comes to stay, preventing the need for a spare bedroom. The same concept will be rolled out in the commercial area with areas divided off and made available for rent as a potential office or short term space. Three electric cars will also be made available to tenants to rent from the body corporate.
What these three projects all share in common is a desire to develop housing models that carefully consider sustainability and affordability while being flexible and desirable. They demonstrate that innovative approaches to housing through increased architectural involvement is key in solving the problem.
It is unlikely to consider that the average Australian detached house could or should be individually architecturally designed but that is not to say that architects cannot exert a role in reshaping our development model. It is encouraging that LandCorp are playing an important role in these projects and continued government involvement and coordination with developers and industry is essential in tackling the problem.
It seems fitting to end this article with another part from the Ken Maher address to Parliament, “We need to recognise the value good architecture brings to achieving cost-effective and sustainable buildings and urban centres, which contribute to the sustainable growth of our communities, economy and culture. In short, good design can’t be seen as a luxury or an optional extra; rather, it is essential to delivering a built environment that can sustain Australia’s diverse communities into the future.”11
You can view Ken Maher’s full speech here.
This article was written for UWA’s Design Blog, Local Code. I would like to thank Ellen Ashenden, Geoffrey London, Dimitri Kapetas, and Philip Stejskal for providing their insights on this topic.
This interview along with several others are featured in ‘Noise’, a zine created by Tone List that documents improvised and exploratory music in Perth throughout 2016. You can get the zine here.
1. What instrument or equipment do you use to improvise, and what is your relationship with this equipment/instrument?
From a very young age, before I was even tall enough to play it, I was drawn to the double bass. There was something about the tone and depth of sound that I really loved. I was very lucky to be surrounded by music as a child. My parents would take me to all sorts of concerts from ACO to Perth Jazz Society. I started playing violin from the age of 3 and it seemed very natural to progress to the bass as I grew.
Today, I’m still discovering so much about the instrument and really love exploring the vast number of sounds and range of techniques that are possible on such a large stringed instrument.
2. What led you to improvised music?
After learning classically for a number of years I found myself wanting to explore new styles of music and became interested in jazz. Discovering how to improvise over chords and playing jazz tunes in small ensembles was new and exciting. While many of my early influences stemmed from developing an understanding of the history of jazz I started to become more and more interested in the distinct sound coming out of Australia’s jazz community and really wanted to contribute in some way to this sound. Moving to Melbourne was a great experience, being in a new city and surrounded by a new group of musicians made me feel free enough to experiment and try new things. Playing more freely and openly and collaborating with artists of other disciplines became the new exciting thing. It was a similar experience coming back to Perth and meeting a whole new community of musicians interested in improvised music and it’s exciting to be a part of such an open and welcoming group of people.
3. What keeps you improvising? What do you think makes this music important, either personally, socially, politically, etc.
I see improvised music as an opportunity to interact and communicate with people and create something out of this interaction. I enjoy the spontaneity and sense of playfulness of this and try to not think too much into it but feel that music as with art has purpose if it can make someone question or think of things a little differently.
4. What are your feelings on the relationship between planning and spontaneity in improvisation?
I’m not too opinionated on this. I would say that my views differ depending on the situation and who I’m playing with. In Lee/Jacobs/O’Connor we sometimes base our improvisations on an abstract narrative that gives some sort of direction and sets a general mood to start our improvisations. Sometimes I approach a solo performance by focusing on a particular technique or concept to develop and explore, I find this helps to create cohesion.
5. How do you evaluate or reflect upon improvisations you’ve played? How does the evaluation of a recording differ from the evaluation of a performance?
This is difficult. Often, I find that the way I perceive a performance ends up being completely different to how I find it upon listening back to it. I try to not dwell on a performance too much. I find it much more constructive to talk through ideas with everyone in a rehearsal setting and work through ways to improve the music there.
6. Do you think there is room for discursive (as opposed to non-discursive) thought in improvisation? Can discursive thoughts whilst playing be productive rather than distracting, and if so, do you have an idea as to when this might be the case?
I’d be interested to hear what other improvisers think about this. I find it extremely difficult to go through a performance without thinking at all but do aspire to minimize this as much as possible. There is a danger in over thinking whilst playing as I find that it really limits my playing. I do think that there is room for discursive thought in some instances though, especially when thinking about the overall architecture or structure of an improvisation.
7. Can you name three albums/pieces/experiences that inspired you to start improvising and three that are currently inspiring you?
– Ornette Coleman. Ornette’s music was probably the first freer sounding music that I heard. Charlie Haden’s playing always resonated with me and has had a very strong influence on my sound and approach to playing.
– Miles Davis, Plugged Nickel Concert. I started to be drawn to more open playing in a jazz context and was particularly inspired by the level of interaction and freedom that Miles’ 60s quintet had whilst playing over jazz standards.
– Many, many Australian musicians. Dave Ades, Allan Browne and Zac Hurren to name a few.
– I have been getting more into solo playing lately and am focusing on exploring more extended techniques and sounds on the bass. Two players who I’ve been really getting into are Mark Dresser and Mike Majkowski.
– I think musically, I draw just as much inspiration from the people I’m surrounded by and playing with as I do from listening to recordings. The Perth improvising community has been doing lots of great things and there are constantly interesting gigs, workshops and events to be involved in.
– I am also inspired by more and more wide ranging things these days. I often find visual experiences to be just as inspiring as musical ones.