Dialogues 14 - ‘Where in the World’

June 2021 

Dialogues is a series of talks hosted by Henley Halebrown. The events provide a forum for a range of voices from across the discipline to share projects and ideas, encouraging informal discussions and critical engagement

View the lecture here 

[An edited transcript of the Dialogue lecture]
Aaron Peters
I'll just start by saying thank you very much for thanks for hanging around after work or zooming in.

We normally begin in Australia with an acknowledgement of Country. We're presenting tonight from the lands of the Jagera and Turrbal people. We acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging.

Thanks very much for the invitation, Simon. Thanks to the Henley Halebrown team for organizing tonight, and setting it up. Thank you, Patrick, for the introduction.

We're going to be talking tonight in the form of a conversation the slides are on an automatic timer. So if nothing else, we can guarantee that we will be punctual this evening.

We did a little rehearsal yesterday, Stu. Seemed to go, right?
Stuart Vokes
Aaron Peters
Pretty confident it's gonna work out?
Stuart Vokes
Although we promised this is completely unscripted, what we practised yesterday could be quite different to what we talk about today. So it's hard to know. Even though we've been talking about the same thing for about 18 years, I think.
Aaron Peters

(New project: Yeronga House)

Oh, we're into it already.

The first project that we wanted to talk about was this house, Yeronga House. It was completed before I met Stuart, and to be honest, it was a project that I was very impressed by.

I met a lot of people in architecture, I was a third-year student at the time, and lots of people impressed me, but this was one of the first instances where I met someone who had impressed me who also had a piece of work that I was interested in and that I think was important.

This project was incredibly ambitious. I think was one of the things that I loved about it. This single room was trying to do so many different things. It was recreating the relationship between this little cottage and its suburban backyard setting. It completely remakes the promenade through the house and out into the garden, it frames and edits views. Yet it's just a single low-budget room, basically.
Stuart Vokes
I think our starting point has always been about rooms and in this instance, it's really a verandah typology. It takes on the qualities of a room and therefore becomes an outdoor room and, in a way, the room intensifies the experience of the setting, you know, which is enabled by the subtropical climate. It has this enormous aperture that enables the making of the landscape, which is a compression of about five or six neighbouring backyards.
Aaron Peters
(New project: Wilston Garden Room)

In many ways, it's an interesting entrée to this project, Wilson garden room, which was completed about 11 years later. I think in many ways (Wilston) was an inheritor of a lot of those ideas. It's a single room that's trying to do a lot of heavy lifting. It's trying to be ambitious about being a critical piece of architecture, even though it's a relatively small project. It's an alteration in addition to an existing cottage and you can see some of those images on the screen here.
Stuart Vokes
There's a picture of the original rear of the house.

This project also attempts to reconcile the disengagement between the elevated timber building and the ground, which falls away quite steadily behind.
Aaron Peters
I think what I wanted to ask you about with these two projects (and they've been deliberately paired together because they're both a single room and they're both alteration and addition projects), I guess what I was wondering about and interested in your thoughts on, was the extent to which that first project, the Yeronga house has found its way into the subsequent room. The way in which I think that has happened is there was, whether it was conscious or not, a particular attitude towards responding to the context of the building in the Yeronga House. It's sitting in this typical Brisbane, suburban landscape. It's a weird fibro box amongst a whole bunch of other fibro boxes and chain wire fences and lawns and veggie patches.

Wilston is similar in a lot of ways. It's trying to find a contemporary language for working with this timber vernacular, with the building traditions of the region. You'll see in a second, some images are coming up, the internal fabric of the room. It's lined in these square-dressed Radiata to pine boards, which are a kind of throwback to the traditional VJ boards that most timber houses were lined in. That's the theme that I see emerging in Yeronga: the ambition to make a critical piece of architecture in a suburban backyard project.

Would you agree with that?
Stuart Vokes
Yeah, definitely. I think what's also really important is the positioning of this single room and its capacity to become a catalyst for the rearrangement of all of the other rooms in the interior. It takes care of the promenade between the footpath or the street and the rear garden. Given that much of the private life and also public life of the last few decades in Brisbane suburbia has been contained in the backyard, these vast sways of empty kind of open space the positioning of this room is critical just as it was in Yeronga because it sets up this enfilade of living spaces between the street and the rear garden.

But I think what's also significant is the cross-section in this room, which manages that dissent down to the garden. I think that's potent how the cross-section sets up the particular character of this room. It also begins to position it so that it has a greater allegiance to the garden, which I think is pretty significant.
You know, we kind of gave this room, the term, ‘garden room’, maybe we were poeticizing  pretty hard here, but the naming of this room reveals the intent for this room, it's not meant to be a part of the house. It's giving the occupant a wonderful way to start dwelling in the garden.
Aaron Peters
And we painted it green, because gardens are green, didn't we?
Stuart Vokes
Well, yeah, I was gonna ask you about what you thought the significance of the colour blocking was here. We talked about the idea that the green in a way anticipates the setting, but was there something else for you? Is it just about kind of building a character for this room?
Aaron Peters
I think because we're investing so much in this one room it was a way of marking it out, of saying that this is a significant space. There are a number of other cues that lead you to think so: the ability to frame views from the room, the fact that it's the only space in the building with this one-and-a-half height ceiling.

I think the treatment, the materiality, the scale of the volume and the cross-section all of these things are about reinforcing the primacy of this room within the house. It's doing such an important job. It's interpreting between this vast suburban setting and the interior of the building.
Stuart Vokes
I remember joking about how we'd made an observation, that in a setting with so much sunlight and so much open space, rampant vegetation everywhere, that when you paint a building white in this city the colour that's reflected off the surrounding vegetation and a lawn is this pale green. So the underside of all of these buildings gets draped in this amazing pale green tint. In a way, that room was a story about the light of the city.
Aaron Peters
(New project: Balmoral House)

This next project,  we're sort of going back in time again, this is 2007, it's one of the earlier projects that, that we did together, Balmoral House.

It's an alteration and addition to a typical timber Queenslander, probably built in about the twenties. This house is like a lot of Brisbane has quite an undulating terrain. It's either a floodplain, or it's a hill, as far as Brisbane is concerned.

This house backs onto what is quite a steep gully. These photos show the original condition of the house at the front where it's about a meter and a bit above the ground. At the rear, it rises to around two and a half stories around the garden. The garden falls really dramatically away down to the back. We had a typical Brisbane kind of problem to solve here. The family who were gonna move into this house wanted to find a way to reconnect with the ground plane.
Stuart Vokes
We talk a lot about reconciling this disengagement between these lightweight buildings and the ground. In particular, it's relevant to the context of a family house and the territory of the child being the ground. It was something that became evident.

We admired the wonderful material compositions of Louis Kahn particularly and spent a lot of time poring over the Fisher House and its composition of stone with timber cladding. I think that informed the resolution here for this building, it gave us a way to think about how you might anchor a delicate wooden building into the ground and deal with all of the nuances of that pesky insect (the termite) that eats the timber or the moisture and the wood rot as a consequence of contact with the ground.
Aaron Peters
I think this was the first time that I'd heard about Palladio's work (and you brought into the conversation the villa Foscari, La Malcontenta). We were interested in the way that, at the rear of that building there was this large window to the sala, but then also, what I think was probably a servant’s stair that wound its way down from the sala to the ground and popped out the rear of the facade through this tiny little door.
Stuart Vokes
You get this really abrupt really flat elevation at the rear of the building. In a lot of ways, you can trace the floor plan of those villas through the treatment of their elevations.

There's this mysterious way in which one gets from the piano nobile down to the ground level that we ultimately ended up calling the ‘vertical veranda.’ An exterior space that connects all of the new rooms in the house. At that large aperture, you find yourself at the landing of a stair and then you disappear, move away from the edge of that facade and you find yourself popping out through that smaller aperture at the ground.
Aaron Peters
I guess what's remarkable about that is that you need to go outside to come back inside to reach the living room (which you can see in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen at the moment). But also, the rooms that are gathered around that stair, so the living room and a bathroom to the other side, have doors and windows that open onto the stair and they get some of their views and light via that stair as well.

I do remember I was probably in fourth or fifth year when we were making this house and being quite confused about what exactly it was that we were making. There wasn't a precedent that I was aware of for how you would solve this problem in Brisbane architecture. I wasn't aware of a project we could point to.

Later, it was interesting that a lot of that was clarified in the way that we spoke about the building. You later referred to the stair as a vertical veranda. I've also referred to it as a giant window reveal because it does the job of framing, as you can see on the screen at the moment on the left-hand side, this view down into the gully.

I subsequently thought about the rear facade as a kind of escarpment made of weatherboards that had been eroded. In some ways, it helped me find a new way of interpreting and understanding what it was that we made. I think that that's something that's continued in the work, this idea of quite consciously mislabeling architectural elements as a way of sort of revealing their potential or reconceptualizing them in a slightly different way.
Stuart Vokes
I think it was a really important device. This is a theme that is then running through subsequent work, looking at how our clients may be engaged with their setting in a more phenomenal way, not just limited to an optical experience, but actually experiencing the setting through their senses.

So, you know, we said, well, you've actually gotta go outside in the rain or you've gotta go outside in the six-degree winter temperature to go back at back inside to watch the telly.

There was always that moment when one engages in a dissent to the garden as it were, to journey, to move through to any of the rooms in the house. That starts to come through in many of the other works, I think.
Aaron Peters
(New project: Indooroopilly House)

So we're jumping around all over the place in terms of the chronology. The project that's about to come up is the Indooroopilly House. This is one of the few projects that we had in the early days to labour over. It's another alteration in addition, but in this instance, we were working not with a timber Queenslander, but a kind of weird ass-
Stuart Vokes
1980s. Almost like a little townhouse had been detached from a row house detached from all of its neighbours.
Aaron Peters
It's one of the only projects that we've done that I think tapped into something that a lot of other practices were doing in Brisbane at the time. It's kind of reminiscent, in its palette, of the work of architects like Andresen O’Gormanand I guess. Donovan Hill as well, who were a great inspiration to us in the early days.

That language, this kind of sticky, and quite tectonic Brisbane language hasn't continued so much in our work. But one of the things that has persisted was this idea of anchoring the building through this massive masonry wall on one side. Then on the other side, that anchoring moment is contrasted or juxtaposed against this lightweight timber room that projects out into the canopies of the trees. It's quite narrow. I think it's only 2.2 meters-
Stuart Vokes
Aaron Peters
Actually, 2.3
Stuart Vokes
It's really just a composition of two parts, this narrow peninsula room which is aligned with a horizon and becomes a room for dreaming, a room for optimism paired with this enormous brick wall aligned with the ground and the sky that anchors the experience of that peninsula room.
Aaron Peters
(New project: Bulimba House)

So this is Bulimba House, a house that doesn't build upon the aesthetic of Indooroopilly. It's probably more aligned with Balmoral House in many ways.

What it did do was take this peninsula room and explore it once again, in a different setting. The context, this is a new house, I think only the second new house that we did we'd done together, is located in a subdivided block. The original family house you can see in the photo on the left-hand side.

They shaved off a thin piece of territory next to the house. What I think is particularly notable about this site is that it backs onto the Brisbane River. So as a consequence, what we made was this peninsula room, which projected out into the riparian corridor to make a double-height library space, a very thin room, but a very tall room. At the end of that peninsula, there's a little day bed.

I think the client's brief was about wanting to read books and drink tea.
Stuart Vokes
Yeah, that's it, it was all about sitting around reading and sipping tea.

The first room that was drawn on a piece of paper, the first lines, marked out this narrow peninsula room because we thought we could resolve this whole brief at the moment that someone is sitting with a book and a cup of tea in hand gazing at the river through this personal view, through a small porthole window.

The client was initially horrified that we had denied them a large wall of glass, and they thought we were taking the piss. So we gave them a larger aperture with these solid panels so that they could moderate the light and the scale of their view.
Aaron Peters
The room's doing a lot, there's a wall of books. There's a skinny little stair that winds its way up to the second floor and then pops out the side wall and returns on the outside of the building up to this roof terrace that you can see on the screen. There's a playfulness about the way that the room's made. I remember you talking about, is it Agathga Christie?
Stuart Vokes
Yeah. Crime novelist.
Aaron Peters
This idea of a building that you could explore, that might have hidden aspects to it.

What was interesting about this house for me (and I think quite shocking to a lot of other people outside of the practice) was that the default position in Brisbane is to take all of the space, particularly on a small site like this (this is a really small house for Brisbane), all of the living spaces, and aggregate them together to make the biggest open plan space that you could. To provide the largest aperture that you possibly could to the riverside, a big wall of glass. Bob's your architect.

That wasn't what we did. Somewhat perversely we made, on a small site, several small rooms, which were tailored to the particular requirements of their intended form of occupation.
Stuart Vokes
I think two things were going on. One was thinking about how you might react to what is considered in Brisbane a small site. So a 10-meter wide site, which I guess for you guys over there is probably a wide proportion.

We were reacting to the idea of small scale and thinking about that in terms of generosity and decided that actually, what would be more generous, was if we took a small space and chopped it up into numerous manifold, small and even smaller spaces so that there might be a number of ways in which one could experience the site and there could be manifold relationships between rooms and from rooms to garden spaces.

The other thing that was going on here is the preservation or the revaluing of open space. So in lieu of building extra rooms that one normally finds in an affluent person's house, we reduced the number of rooms in favour of these open spaces, these walled gardens without roofs, which was also quite unconventional, I think.  

At the time in Brisbane, we weren't making roofed outdoor space.
Aaron Peters
Which is a lovely transition into the coming up in a second.

(New project: Subiaco House)

In addition to the peninsula, the other early preoccupation of the practice was the walled garden. I think in many ways they both became the building blocks of all of the projects in those early days. Are we making a peninsula or a walled garden or are we trying to do both somehow?

Subiaco is very much a walled garden, in fact, it's a walled garden with, with a cloister, I guess you, you would say.

The other thing that's remarkable about it in our body of work is that it's not in Brisbane, it's actually in Perth, which is a five-hour flight across the country. In most other places in the world that would be in a different country from our country, but in Australia, you're still within the borders.

It's a very different condition, a different climatic condition. It's also a very different architectural and building tradition. It's a masonry-built city as opposed to Brisbane, which is largely a timber-built city, and a suburb, Subiaco, that was built on the back of a gold rush. This injection of wealth then creates this incredibly lush and beautiful suburb with very rarefied buildings.

In Perth they bury their power lines as opposed to Brisbane where they're all above ground, you get these amazing mature street trees.
Stuart Vokes
It was a great opportunity to work within a local heritage conservation precinct and, and such a picturesque setting. There's real civility in these suburbs in Perth, and in particular, Subiaco. We talk about how there's always been a civility in the suburbs. Even in a scrappy town like Brisbane we've observed that it's really in the margins of a site that civility is transmitted, you know, between houses, in the space between small houses across low fences. So in a way, this project starts to talk about the enduring role of the single detached house and its role in the city to enable that level of civility. I think that's something that's really important.
Aaron Peters
Oh, absolutely. I spoke in relation to Yeronga about the ambition in the work and that being something that I really admired about seeing Yeronga for the first time. Another form of ambition in the work has been to see these private houses as critical pieces of city-making. And with that comes a responsibility to see ourselves as custodians of the city and the suburbs that we're working in. So we try and make buildings that allow occupants to engage with their community.

I was listening to a political commentator recently talking about the fact that democracy, generally, is not in a good place around the globe. But that democracy is a thing that is practised on a small scale every day. And in many ways, that kind of sentiment, seeing the private house as a public piece of architecture and acknowledging its public role is really important in creating these small-scale, fundamental building blocks of community. Making sure that the occupants of this house have an engagement with the world around them. That was something that was already present in their brief, they're very sociable people-
Stuart Vokes
They describe themselves as outdoor people, outdoor types.

I think this was quite bold of us, actually, to ask the question: ‘how might one be an outdoor type or how might one occupy the outdoor space of this site?’ It's quite bold to push all of that program to the edge of the footpath, right to the edge of the street.

Even for these sociable, well-connected kinds of clients, I think that was pretty challenging, but I really loved the idea that their neighbours, their friends, would be walking down the street and be called in for a cup of coffee which might then turn into an invitation for lunch, and then roll on into the evening.

You can start to imagine a street full of these kinds of buildings that might enable that neighbourly activation.
Aaron Peters
It's probably worth saying that there's a trend in the opposite direction in Brisbane. And I think, all around Australia, generally.

One of the shortcomings of having an enormous amount of open space, which is an incredible privilege, is that it also allows people to disengage. So the fact that we have backyards and large lots to retreat into means that front fences seem to be getting ever higher and ever more opaque and houses tend to be more and more introverted as time goes on.
Stuart Vokes
(New project: Casuarina House)

This is a house, Casuarina House, which is located in a coastal suburban setting about an hour's drive south of Brisbane.

Almost the earliest conversation we had with Andrew and Manzuma was about the importance of sharing in suburbia and how important open space was going to be for their family life. They were expecting a child as this building was being designed and they now have had a second child.

The first conversation was all about how they might understand the territory of the street as an experience or a room of their house, a room that would help them conduct their daily lives.

We talked about being on the edge of the street and their kids, riding bikes and learning how to skateboard as parents assembled on the verge, drinking wine together and enjoying the days as the sun went down. And this really was driving many of the decisions in, in this project.
Aaron Peters
You start with taking a brief from a client, which then gives you a sense of who they are and how they would like to be, and then you can work back from that to begin to imagine spaces and rooms that might accommodate those lives.

Dealing with new houses has been a real learning curve because our practice was founded on the back of alteration and addition projects. I dunno whether it was because of that, but our mindset has been a more accretional one. So we tend to find a manner and a language for our buildings that is derived from observations about context, more often than not.

One of the first new houses that we ever did together was the Harvey Bay House. We love telling a story about how the first thing that we did was to get a previous project, photocopy it, cut out part of the floor plan, stick it on the site and then design an extension.
Stuart Vokes
That seemed easier -
Aaron Peters
Because it was the way that we knew how to start.

As time has gone on, I think we've become slightly more adept. And this house didn't begin with photocopying part of a previous project. It started, I think, from listening to narratives that the client was sharing with us. I mean, do you think that's fair?

It certainly didn't come from a direct imitation of the local vernacular, it's a relatively new-built suburb. The houses are sort of pleasant, but not especially remarkable.

How did you find your way into this project?
Stuart Vokes
They were a young couple and were about to embark upon family life with children and I was ten years into, at that point, parenthood. 

I always hated meeting clients that thought they had some sort of higher knowledge because they had children and I didn't. It's interesting that when you become a parent and you are designing houses for clients, there is something that you draw on, from your own personal experiences. And for me, the street has been so important in our family life. I think it's what drove those early conversations with that client, to take their own personal narratives and suggest that, actually, they might draw upon other things, other nuances and assets that existed on the site.
Aaron Peters
One of the responses was to leave as much open space on the site as possible. To try and reduce the footprint of the building.

The other way that I see that playing out in this project is the use of the masonry and the way that it's paired with the timber.
Stuart Vokes
Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that.
Aaron Peters
The masonry makes this central lightwell or courtyard at right in the heart of the house, but it also snakes out into the garden and gathers pieces of open space and starts to imply roofless rooms in the garden, which is not unique to this particular project, but that idea of the building and the landscape being conceived as a whole, I think has been important to us.

And masonry, because of the presence of the termite that eats timber if it touches the ground in our region. Masonry has always been the tool that we've been able to use to ground the building or form a much more literal and direct connection between interior space and exterior space.
Stuart Vokes
Yeah. I think also the masonry allows us to imagine a form of building on the site. So, often what we might do is start by drawing the masonry or thinking about these enclosures in the garden, the rooms in the garden defined by the masonry. That then allows us to anchor the new work from something.

We joked about the Harvey Bay House, and how we were far more familiar with the idea of starting with a preexisting building and then adjusting it. I feel like masonry offers us the same freedom and the same starting point. Anchor the ideas and anchor the project through a suite of masonry ruins, or imagine that they're a ruin of a former building and then start building a building around them.
Aaron Peters
So what you're saying is we did find a way to make this into an operation in addition?

(New project: Hill End House)

I think we're moving now into the last pairing of projects.

This is the first one is the Hill End House, which is a precursor to the final project that we'll talk about in earnest.

I suppose we're introducing a very Brisbane type of project here, the raise and built under. In Brisbane, if you want some extra space in your house, and who doesn't, one of the things that you can do is to put your timber building on some pistons and you can jack it up above the ground and then build in underneath the building. It's a common mode of expansion in Brisbane.

One of the benefits is that it doesn't increase the footprint of the building. The negative aspects of doing that, and these are some photos of the existing house as we found it, is that a lot of the spaces in the undercroft can often be quite dark and dank, especially lovely places to be.

With Hill End, we found it in this pre-raised condition. You could stand on the street and look through to the backyard and the back fence through the undercroft of the building.

We generally resisted the build-under, but in this instance, it was staring us in the face and we embraced it. What we started looking at was a kind of layering of rooms and exploiting the depth of the undercroft by positioning the more active and light-filled spaces like the dining and kitchen on the edge of the garden behind the filagree of screening that got applied to the rear facade. As you move deeper into the footprint of the building you get rooms like the living room, which is slightly darker and moodier. In my mind, it was more convivial. And that's where you find a fireplace.
Stuart Vokes
What's the significance of the ground in this project and the build-under? It seems to be a consistent theme in the work, this idea of the terrain and the ground.
Aaron Peters
With Hill End we created an artificial terrain by allowing the floor slab to step. The floor slab steps up as you get towards the living room and the ceiling height starts to compress. That allows the living room to have a privileged view out over the dining room, it's not looking through furniture, it still has a direct connection to the garden.

That's one of the ways we respond to the ground, a sort of abstraction of a broader landscape that manifests in a whole bunch of different ways in our work.

We've spoken a few times already about the importance of grounding buildings and also the importance of getting your feet on the ground, and being able to occupy the ground plane, particularly when there are children in the family.  

(New project: Teneriffe House)

Teneriffe House is another raise-and-build-under project, albeit one that's far more ambitious.
Stuart Vokes
Yeah. Enormous -
Aaron Peters
Both in terms of the scale of the building and the size of the budget.

The prominence of the building, which had been designed by an architect,  is relatively unusual for Brisbane or this enormous block.

It was quite an intimidating proposition.

This is the house we found it. It had been neglected pretty badly. In fact, it had been turned into a mental health hostel. And built under, you can see the block work additions that have been made to create a number of rooms under the building.
Stuart Vokes
All of the verandahs had been enclosed. That space in the centre of the image was a commercial kitchen for the hostel that had a suite of roller commercial roller doors to be able to lock away the knives and the food at night.
Aaron Peters
It was a shit hole.

One of the things that we immediately started to do was to try and cleanse the floor plan of a lot of these later additions, and in a way, to find the original building beneath all of these unfortunate accretions.

The next thing that happened was the building was lifted up.  Later in the suite (of images), there's an image of the building sitting on blocks as it's waiting to be lifted and moved. It was rotated 90 degrees to re-orient it on the block and also to create a larger garden buffer between the house and the street.
Stuart Vokes
You touch on something that we didn't talk about yesterday, this act that we describe as ‘reoccupying the plan.’

It's a method of discovering how one might be in an existing house. And it commences with this act of emptying the plan as a way of discovering the historic spirit of the house and how it is that you might be in the building.
Aaron Peters
The final thing that I wanted to talk about in this presentation, and also in relation to this project, is one of the things that Simon asked us and the lead-up to the talk: the origins of the forms and the figures in our work.

It prompted me to ask myself a lot of different questions, but one, in particular, from whence has this language been derived?

To a large degree, I think we're influenced by the context in which we're working. We tend to be Bower Birds. We are picking details that we notice like flared weatherboard, skirts, or window hoods, or a particular way in which some lattice work or some batten screening might work, and then finding a way to reinterpret and contemporize that vernacular language, finding a way to remake it in our own manner.

Another compelling aspect is how the manner of an architect tends to appear in the detail. When you are confronted with a situation, like the constant image that's on the right-hand side of the screen here, where you have a new extension being appended to the back of an existing historic building and also placed upon this new concrete base, you have a whole bunch of different junctions and moments where materials meet other materials, where you need to stop and start where you need to join.

There's a whole bunch of problems to solve, technical problems. And out of the resolution of those problems emerge the manner of the architect, because everyone responds to those problems in different kinds of ways.

We haven't got a lot of time left, but did you want to briefly speak to some of the ideas about how we've composed and created this amalgamation of different parts in this particular part of the building?
Stuart Vokes
We've written about detail and manner and the difference between those terms in our minds. I think we settled on the idea that the act of detailing or detail in architecture might be an act of manipulating the perception of things, of buildings.

I think what we're doing here is trying to rediscover the original composition of the building, a lightweight, delicate timber building raised on timber stumps. In this case, the stumps are recreated in concrete.
Aaron Peters
In many ways, it's an exaggeration of some of those elements of the original building. Rather than a timber stump, as you said, we have a concrete blade and some of them are shaped and arrayed in a slightly unconventional way.

Essentially what we're trying to evoke here is that original shadow beneath the building. It enables us to make this very silent base out of concrete, because we know we can make concrete, crisply, but it also allows us to create depth. And then the interior of the understory gets painted in black paint. So it's literally, you know-
Stuart Vokes
Yeah, there's an elaboration of a shadow.
Aaron Peters
And the ground plane gets inlaid with bricks, which are symbolically, and literally as well, an evocation of the ground -
Stuart Vokes
Of the dirt.
Aaron Peters
So those original conditions are present in the way we reconfigure the building.

(slideshow ends)

Well, we're done.

We've done what we set out to achieve, which is to speak without stopping for 45 minutes. And we've also achieved the thing that we couldn't avoid achieving, which is finishing on time because we've had automated slides.

Thanks very much, everyone. I hope we've still got some of you with us. As Simon alluded to earlier, we're more than happy to take some questions.

We might switch our webcam back on and hand it over to you.
Simon Henley
Aaron, Stuart, thank you. That's brilliant.
Aaron Peters
I'm just gonna go and turn the lights on. Hang on.
Simon Henley
<Laugh> it's just fascinating, we talked about so many things, but this idea about civility and exploring civility through domestic space, which of course has huge connotations for, as you said, all politics, but it's a very subtle reminder to everybody of how important that is and how that seems to play out in the buildings, addressing nature.

You talk about that relationship to nature and the views as being terribly important. You've written about it, but you also talked about it today, framing outside space as being perhaps one of the best ways of conveying that and communicating that idea or making it even possible. Do you think that's a way of putting the private into the public domain? A public domain of the natural world or the public domain of the urban world or the suburban street.
Stuart Vokes
I think it's quite easily facilitated by the climate here because you can spend a lot of time outdoors. Although, the contemporary family is more likely to build walls around their house and increase the levels of privacy within their domestic realm. In a way that leads to this breakdown of civility and neighbourliness within a community.

We're being overly ambitious, and maybe we're being cavalier when it comes to one's privacy, but it feels like the answer, moving forward in suburbia, is not to live in a really closed manner, but to be a lot more open in the way in which we share everything, how we share our lives and how one can be a witness to the domestic life of daily rituals.

Hanging out washing in the back garden was something that was always on show and in a contemporary house if the clothes aren't put in the dryer after they're washed, they're being hung in a concealed, discreet manner now, because of course, everyone's too privy to want to kind of expose their banal daily lives.

Everyone's gotta live amazing, fantastic lives, apparently. It's not really the truth of anyone's daily life. Our lives are made up of a set of repeated daily, banal rituals. And in a way, those activities that have always been contained in suburbia are where we derive a richness for architecture.

There are a bunch of things there, but I think the climate does facilitate this ability to spend a lot more time outdoors and do things on the edge of the building or at the margin of the setting. It gives us a chance to transmit that civility that's always been there. It can only ever be about enabling, you know, we can't shift the way our culture thinks, but we need to continue to enable these things to happen.
Simon Henley
But you are not denying them privacy, are you? In fact, you've got a greater acuity for the privacy that is possible.  

When you talked early on about the room as a catalyst, but then a number of projects where it's just a couple of rooms, or you take a building, where your typical Brisbane architect would just lump it all together and make a whopping great big space with a huge aperture the outside world and instead you divide the home or the building up into a series of smaller spaces, which therefore are interrelated to each other, but also of course, afforded presumably different degrees of privacy. You start to live a life which is more aware of that.
Stuart Vokes
We talk about the pleasures of absolutes and in a way it's not surprising that we, for a long time, painted our buildings either black or white, because it seemed like there was nothing else that we could do.

I think you're right, there are degrees of intimacy. If one is going to be bold enough to push their clients to the edge of their site, you know, right onto the street, well, then what we also need to do is offer them spaces of great intimacy. And of course, that's easy to do. It's much harder to imagine the kind of open life on the edge of the street in the suburban context of Brisbane, that's for sure.

In the early days of practice, we had this really big complex that the little backyard projects that we were doing were insignificant or irrelevant pieces of work, particularly if we thought about the idea of a city. In the early days, there was this big complex about not making city building projects and that navel-gazing allowed us to draw the conclusion that actually, in the setting of a historic low-density city, if one, doesn't take care of all of those leftover pieces of space appropriately, then one wasn't being a part of city making.

Each of those moves that we made into those green spaces at the rear of these buildings was actually an act of city-making, taking care of the experience of the city. Given that much of this city is a low-density suburban setting, practice life in Brisbane was quite binary, you either worked in the suburbs or you worked on really important city-making projects close to the centre of the city.
Aaron Peters
I think what was important about the attitude that we took, and it took time to find our way there, was that the quotations that we make when we are drawing upon the vernacular come from a place of genuine affection for the suburbs.

I'm sure it's the same in the UK that there's a cultural cringe when it comes to suburbia and all the things that that entails. To some degree, that's correct, because the suburbs are a manifestation of a whole bunch of societal things that we'd rather not think about, but there's also, particularly in the case of Brisbane, this incredible beauty. Not only in the built fabric of the city but, but also in the relationships and the rituals that play out in suburbia.

In order to make the kind of work that we are making, I think it was important to find our way to a position of being able to admire the setting that we are working in, to have respect for and genuine connection with the people who occupy these buildings.

Prior to finding that realization for ourselves (and it was a journey, you know - we grew up in the suburbs as middle-class kids) we had every reason to want to escape that. The only attitude towards the suburbs that I was aware of was this rather condescending attitude that seemed to be manifest in a lot of high-postmodern work that we were observing. It was quoting the suburbs, but not in a way that was inclusive, in our view. Though I'm sure there are many exceptions to that.

It took us a while to find a particular approach that seemed to gel with how we saw Brisbane and how we wish to respond to the commissions that we were getting.
Simon Henley
I'm just gonna ask you one other thing and then let other people ask questions, because I know that they will.

You've written about your interest in DIY. I think that's perhaps Aaron, but no doubt through your conversations, both of you. And that seems to be a kind of route into this delight in the suburbs, I guess, and in the vernacular.
Stuart Vokes
The thing that you were talking about, Aaron, the earlier interest that local Brisbanites showed in the vernacular was through formalism, and that wasn't really a part of our childhood experiences of the suburbs.

The territory of your youth is the ground and the things that you discover in backyards, you know, the act of walking along the top of a picket fence around one’s property or climbing a tree or driving small toy cars or something along a concrete path down to the incinerator in the rear garden. Those are the kind of materials and objects and surfaces that we're drawing on from our own childhood experiences, not the formalism of the front facade of a Queenslander.

So this interest in DIY is really just drawing on our spatial memories, of childhood experiences. I think of backyards and have fond memories of our uncles and neighbours building things every weekend.
Aaron Peters
I think it's a recognition that built fabric has a really powerful emotive potential. And when you invest time and energy into actually making and modifying your environment, particularly when it's aligned with this idea of home ownership.

P art of the ‘Great Australian Dream’ is to own your own home and your own block of land. It's increasingly out of reach for a lot of people, but there's something almost primal in this idea of being able to have a patch of dirt to call your own. You can essentially do what-the-fuck you want on it. Whether that's building a back shed or painting your house or building the front picket fence yourself, those elements as prosaic, as they are, tend to form an integral part of your everyday experience. You have a very intimate and direct immediate relationship with that door handle that you installed or fixed and you touch it every day.

It's about recognizing that there is a connection there between fabric and people. And that's very much part of my childhood. The piece that you read talks about my grandfather, who was a maker and a mender. I grew up on a small hobby farm in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and I spent my weekends straining fences with my dad, which I did not enjoy, but in retrospect, the connection to that place and those activities is something that stayed with me. The emotional weight and potential of it is still there as well, you know, as an architect and a designer.
Simon Henley
That's fascinating. Shall I can I ask others if you'd like to ask a question or just have a conversation, as it were?
Tony Fretton
Simon, can I talk?
Simon Henley
Yes. Tony.
Tony Fretton
It's fantastic work, I mean, really. Without any rhetoric. What I see in the projects is a real formal architectural and cultural intelligence. In your own words, you've found the culture of the suburbs by which, I mean the higher value of it.

When you talk about democracy occurring in, I don't remember your exact words, but in the household that was extremely <unclear> and your ability to find new possibilities in suburban places and project them, and in a way, expand them. 

Suburban life can be extremely pragmatic and very compressed culturally. There's a dream, but it's a very limited dream. What I think you are doing is finding the culture and inventing, discovering the culture in the areas in which you're building. Genuinely. And actually in a way, urbanizing the suburbs, but in a very particular way, through bringing people closer to their boundaries, by extending the building as an outdoor space. These are well, I'm gonna say not insignificant, they're very significant moves. You know, one sees a lot of architecture that you like, and then there's hardly any thought behind it, but you are travelling, your form making and thinking in parallel with real intelligence.

So I have to say, I, I have some friends in Perth, younger architects, and there's a real excitement that I see in Australian architecture and in Sydney with Angelo Candalepas. My knowledge is very thin. The last time I looked at Australian architecture, it was like, <inaudible>, you know, and what is really pleasing is to see it more controlled and intellectually informed, culturally informed architecture coming out of Australia.

So it's very interesting to see Ireland, for example. There's great confidence and really interesting architecture emerging. In Australia, this is how things happen. Architectural adventure moves around the world, you know, 35 years ago, it was people like Hertzog and De Meuron in Switzerland, or the Spanish architects, the Catalan architects, but invention has this strange way of occurring unexpectedly in different places. And I can see in Australia real energy and a real contribution to the international discussion of architecture. So congratulations, really.
Stuart Vokes
Thanks, Tony.
Jo Bacon
I absolutely love the work and I recognize a period of my life, where I spent in Ohio and Chicago bouncing around enjoying the variety of really good American suburban work by Sullivan and Wright and all kinds of people who had the same kind of freedom and joy about creating these different volumes. So I encourage you to go to these mad places back beyond the depths of Ohio to see funny Sullivan cinemas and all kinds of things like that.

What I was really gonna ask is whether you could do the same lecture only with plans or drawings, because I'm interested that you did the whole lecture without and I feel that having seen the complexity of the volumes in photographs if you were able to give the same lecture, exploring them through drawings, that would be a fascinating exercise. And I was kinda interested why you didn't use any drawings.
Aaron Peters
Hi, Jo. Good to see you again. For Stu’s reference, Jo was my boss at Allies and Morrison, many years ago.
Stuart Vokes
Hey, we have something in common, Jo.
Aaron Peters
Still, still finding holes in my work.
Jo Bacon
That’s very unfair! Wasn’t a hole!
Aaron Peters
<laughs> I deliberately left drawings out of the presentation because I realized that we have a tendency to over-elaborate, and as soon as we put a drawing on a screen, we then feel compelled to explain every last aspect of the building. So it was kind of a pragmatic issue there.

Undoubtedly, it would be a more informative and interesting discussion.
Jo Bacon
I didn't say that -
Aaron Peters
I would say that.

It was really just about acknowledging who we are and how long we tend to waffle on. Hopefully what it does do instead is it allows you to project onto the images what you imagine the spaces might be doing.

I've been thinking a lot about it recently. It is a condition of being an Australian architect that you're taught in the Western tradition and using precedents and exemplars from Europe and other places that you just can't get to. Particularly in your formative years, you spend a lot of time learning and talking about buildings that you've never actually experienced and cities that you haven't set foot in. And in this moment of translation from the image to actually creating and designing buildings, errors occur.

I find that to be a really productive creative force in our work. I quite like the idea of embracing the fact that there is this opportunity for mistranslation, that you can project your own interpretation onto something and create for yourself a sort of reality that may not actually marry up with the actual experience of building, but that something new emerges in that moment.

So hopefully, we've shared with everyone the gift of a little error that may prove productive in their working life.
Stuart Vokes
The trouble with drawings is that there's so much we agonize over, the cross-section and whether one steps up or steps down between a room and I think we would get caught on that. As Aaron said, if we put drawings on the screen, we'd feel compelled to have to replay all of that agony. Enjoyable agony of course, but it's all there in the drawings, in the cross-section.

It would make for a very interesting talk if we only spoke to drawings because, well, I'm a pre-digital trained architect, Aaron’s sort of hybrid, and sadly, has to lead our IT department which is a fair enough role for Aaron.

We always talk about the importance of designing with the plan and the section. We still believe in that, that's really important to us, that the intelligence and the solution are in the plan in the section. So you know, there'd be enough content there for a whole lecture just with drawings, for sure. Absolutely.
We kind of talked about whether or not this should be a lecture with many buildings or whether it should be a lecture about one building. And I feel like that's probably where we'd find a good balance, in the moment where we get to talk to only one building, you know, find the drawings coming back into the lecture.
Jo Bacon
Well, we look forward to the book.
Unknown speaker #1
I enjoy very much seeing the houses. Thank you.

When you are talking about the Balmoral House, and it's not particularly that one, but it was something which interestingly for me, I felt I could derive from the photographs without the drawings and that's the social structure of those houses and whether what you've done to them has altered them.

I suppose I was thinking about this for two reasons. One was the fact that suddenly in the back of my mind when you showed one of the images of the Balmoral House, I thought of something like Adolf Loos’ Muller house and something about the spatial structure and the ordering around the staircase, etcetera. And the other thing was, and this for me is particularly interesting, it's the comparison of your kind of vernacular to what we might call the vernacular of the terrace house in somewhere like London, where you have these different levels and back extensions and the social languages. The scullery, the servants were at the back, the kitchens at the back. And one of the problems one always has with these houses, apart from the fact that the ordinary ones are so narrow you can barely swing a cat in them, is the fact that you are trying to disrupt that spatial structure.

I wanted to ask you about that in terms of what you've been doing whilst respecting the enormity of, and the importance of, what you said about making public architecture and making urban architecture, which for me was really interesting.
Stuart Vokes
Yeah. Thanks, Roz.

I don’t know if you want to lead out, Aaron? I've got lots of things to say.
Aaron Peters
Well, a quick one, the Loos comparison is a good one. It's something that we were definitely thinking of. The Raumplan was really, really important to that particular project, and to a number of them.

The conundrum around fronts and backs and public and private is something that is always difficult to resolve. These were buildings that were conceived in another era for a very different kind of lifestyle. I'm sure it's the same for a lot of historic housing stock around the world. The contemporary lifestyle places, a lot of pressure on the Brisbane house that never existed before. One of those is an interest in occupying the backyard for recreational purposes, for entertaining and socializing.

Affluence has grown in Brisbane, quite remarkably, it was a very poor city up until probably two or three decades ago, you know, it was one of the last places in the country to be sewered, it was a very sort of low socio-economic kind of a place for, for much of its early life. And now that we have this affluence, we're shoving all of these things into these houses that were never there before. So they're doubling and tripling in size, and open space is being consumed really rapidly. There's also this weird phenomenon of miniaturization and privatization of public amenities in the city into the private house. So you find, rather than having the council pool, now every second house and the street has a private pool, rather than the local bar, everyone's got, you know, a little entertaining space under the house with their own private bar. The cinema becomes the home entertainment system, you know, all of these kinds of things. We've got the space to do it, and now we've also got the money to do it.

But these things are also quite destructive in so much as they tend to erode the traditional forms of civic life in the city. So institutions start to struggle because people aren't patronizing them. It also means that we're disfiguring a lot of the original character of these buildings and these suburban settings as well. So finding the right balance between those competing concerns is quite difficult.

I suppose the way in which we resolve it is to remind ourselves where to place value, you know, what the original value of these buildings was and where it should be advocated for. To try and craft arguments that we can present to our clients for that.

We've already spoken about what the public role of a private house can be. What we didn't speak about at Balmoral is actually the most significant aspect of the project. While we've made all this architecture at the back, with a capital A, a heroic sculptural form, a beautiful thing that I'm very proud of, the lesson that I took from that project, which I think is the most significant one, is that we've reopened the front veranda, which had been enclosed to form some additional, quite poor sleeping spaces that were being leased out to students, and we put the new kitchen in the old front room of the house.
The life of the house tends to follow the kitchen. And by placing the kitchen where we did, it meant that they were constantly occupying and animating the front elevation of the building. They have dinner every night on the front veranda. That leads to is a casual wave to a dog walker, which leads to an exchange of names, which leads to a relationship, an exchange of numbers, you know, the building blocks of a community-
Stuart Vokes
What was the story that John offered after they'd moved in?
Aaron Peters
The kids’ behaviour at dinner time improved remarkably once they knew that they were on show. So, you know, there are all these follow-on benefits to that attitude.

To be honest, it was kind of confronting for me because, as I said, I was a third or fourth-year student when we were designing and documenting this building. And I don't think I understood that this was the key move of that project until I walked onto the site and saw the kitchen beginning to be installed and saw the verandah being opened up.

My natural inclination was to walk to the back because that's where we'd made the sculptural piece. But in fact, the contribution that this building makes to the city was all happening within the existing footprint of the building.
Stuart Vokes
It's probably the area of greatest disruption because it was very un-Brisbane. We'd grown up in houses where one never used the front door. I mean, at my parent's house, my family house, I can't remember walking through the front door. Everyone, our family and all of our guests, all of the visitors to the house would walk under the house to the rear garden ascend the rear stairs and arrive directly into the kitchen. So at the Balmoral House, by inserting the kitchen into the front elevation into the front room of the house, you got both the front door and the back door next to each other in the same elevation. In a very Brisbane-like way, you still enter the house directly into the kitchen and be greeted with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or something.

I think that was pretty exciting for us, this idea that we had folded the back elevation and the front elevation into a single plane. Here were these two ways of entering the building, the formal front door and the back kitchen door adjacent to each other. I think that was pretty exciting.

I'm not sure if you can still see the image. No, you can't see the image on the screen, but that rear elevation of Balmoral conceals probably half a dozen or so different floor levels in that cross-section and a number of intermediate levels behind that opaque wall. We agonized a lot about each of those levels and each of those volumes, studying the Villa Muller, one of our favourite buildings.

I remember a piece that was written about that building and interrogating the kind of claims that Adolf Loos had made about the truth in his work and the truthful expression of his facade as a manifestation of the plan and the section. But this piece of work revealed that it was a complete contrivance. It is not uncommon for any architect to spend a lot of time contriving the appearance and the facade of their building. And in a way, this rear facade of Balmoral is also a contrivance. It conceals, it's a lie. It participates in the manipulation of the perception of how big those apertures are or where the floor level is, or where the occupant is situated in relation to those openings.

So we are thinking about Adolf Loos, but also Palladio, simultaneously and the way in which the plan is either revealed through the elevation or it isn't. So yeah, it's absolutely embodied in that building.
Unknown speaker #2
Thanks, Aaron. Thanks, Stuart. I really enjoyed your work and your presentation. I'm very sympathetic to the idea of drawing architecture out of architecture-free zones like you were describing. All of the projects are domestic clients. And so I guess it's understandable to think that you'd be working very, very closely with those clients in developing the design. But you only mentioned, I think one comment about one of them when you said you were listening to the narration the client shared with us.
I'm interested in beginnings and I wondered how you start a project, any of the projects, what really generates the first conversation or the first discourse.
Aaron Peters
I think the answer to that question comes back again to Balmoral. That project was designed for quite a famous Australian published author who's written a number of different novels and works as a journalist as well.

As part of the first meetings with John and Jane, Stu happened upon the idea of asking them to prepare their brief in the form of a series of short pieces of prose. And that brief was such a delightful thing to read, it contained all these wonderful anecdotes. As it happens, John's most famous book is actually a memoir of share housing around Australia. He's lived in some ridiculous amount of share houses in pretty much every capital city in the country. And the anecdotes in this narrative form of brief were just so delightful to read. It was so evocative that the first thing we drew was pretty much exactly what was built.

It helped us find the right atmosphere, the right arrangement, the right kind of relationships between spaces so much faster than the schedule of items on the back of an envelope that we were getting prior to that. It was such a revelation to us that subsequently, we started asking all our clients to prepare their briefs in the same way. Since then the narrative brief has become a fixture of our way of working.

What we're looking for is not just the traditional schedule of rooms, or more recently, a link to a Pinterest page, but some sort of a description that can furnish these room names with some sort of meaningful content.

So, you know, everyone will say we want a living room, but for some people that means a room with no windows, pumped full of air conditioning, a flat-screen TV and an Xbox, and some big comfy couches. But to another family, the living room might represent a room lined with walls of books and a bay window with a view of an orange tree.

They're both a living room, but they're completely different atmospheric and occupational experiences. So in using the narrative brief, I think we've been able to tease out much more about the kind of personalities, the daily lives, the rituals of occupation that our clients bring to the conversation.

That allusion that I think Stu made in relation to Casuarina was a product of the narrative briefing process. So I think that's one way of answering your question.
Stuart Vokes
It allowed us to have another set of words to be able to kind of talk about architecture through, not that I would ever like to adjust the way in which I would talk about buildings, but the client's narrative brief, all of those stories become the way in which we can talk about the architecture and the propositions in the work.

The narrative brief becomes a testing tool during the design process as well. So we'll constantly refer back to the stories and test whether or not these stories are accommodated by the work and the proposals.

I think it's really important that the client's own stories become the words, the content for critiquing the architecture and discussing the architecture with the client. It places less demand on the client to become a scholar of architectural rhetoric. I think that's really important, but also in a kind of cunning way, it's a really easy way to sell an idea or be persuasive as an architect, to be able to use a client's own story as a way of selling an idea in a building, because it's so flattering to hear one's own story.

It's really important that when you're sitting down in your first design meeting with any client, whether it's a domestic client or a commercial client, that that client hears their brief being retold. And if the brief is a story and it's their own personal story, then it's really powerful.

That sounds very cunning, but I think it's actually a really resourceful tool. I think it reveals that we can listen to our clients and that's pretty important, that the act of a client telling a story demands that the architect become a good listener.
Unknown speaker #3
I think it's very, very fascinating work and what I personally like a lot is how you connect the more urban way of living in a suburban context. For me, it's almost like showing how you actually can connect to a neighbourhood in a more suburban context.

So what I was wondering is, cuz it's kind of a thing in Belgium here, because it's so dense, there is a way of saying it's not okay to build outside the city. It's like we must be denser in the city and outside the city, we can refurbish, we cannot build new houses. So what I was wondering watching the work is if it's the same in Australia, if they actually make a difference between new constructions and extensions of existing structures in a more suburban or rural context.

I think your work shows in a very beautiful way, the ambition to connect the home to the street and the neighbourhood. So I was wondering because here because it's coming kind of a theme, if this idea of more collective way of living in a suburban context is imposed from the government or regarded as a basis for further exploiting space outside the city, or if it's just an interesting thing that you guys are working on from knowledge and from interest or it's really imposed by the government.
Aaron Peters
It's a deeply embedded cultural trait of Australians. Brisbane was set up along a suburban model. The origins of that aren't entirely clear, but part of it was, I think, a Victorian-era pseudoscientific attitude towards disease prevention and also the spread of fire. The city's built out of timber, you know, separation obviously helps us not have a great fire and these houses do periodically burn down in the middle of the city, which is quite an event to behold.

I think lastly, it's a function of the copious amounts of space that we have, we live in a country that is not far off the size of the United States and there are, I think, 20-something million of us. So there are a hell of a lot of gaps. And while we're generally congregated down the Eastern seaboard, which is more densely populated, the level of proximity and the level of density that we have is just so different from Europe.

We've referred a few times to the squandering of open space. It's definitely a defining trait of this city.  This amazing proliferation of unclaimed open, rambling space. So people have not been especially precious, probably up until relatively recently about expanding cities in this rampant march toward the horizon.
Stuart Vokes
The government's still releasing land for new houses, you know, and new detached houses on the edge of the city at a rate where the cities of the Gold Coast and Brisbane are becoming one great long linear city, you know, land just keeps being released by the government.
Aaron Peters
And to be honest, there is a growing interest in densifying inner urban areas and moving more towards a more urban model, but we're also trying to preserve historic inner city character at the same time. So these two things are quite incongruous. That's problematic.

The other thing that's problematic is that we've become so used to having lots of space that I think it is going to take time for a shift in attitudes back towards the idea of living in a more collective way. Plus the procurement of apartment buildings and the general design quality is appalling in most instances, so that's also problematic.

We find ourselves in a position of having been accustomed for so long to living in detached houses that establishing a decorum in the city based around a more dense urban model is actually really problematic.

I think it is a global issue, no one wants to follow, fall in line and build in a collective way. Trying to get a bunch of architects together to make a piece of city is very difficult because we're a bunch of cats and the herding of cats, as we know, is not particularly easy. But I think to make really successful pieces of urban fabric, you need to have a kind of consensus and a shared set of values around which to make that city. We definitely don't have that.

We, haven't been asked to participate in the making of those kinds of buildings yet, but if it ever happens, that'll be something that's pretty difficult to negotiate, I think.
Stuart Vokes
Yeah. And then there's also the issue of built density and climate.

If one wants to live a life without air conditioning, for example, without constant energy use, then, in a subtropical climate, you actually need open space for natural light and for air ventilation, but you also need open space to be able to grow significant trees, to be able to shade your buildings as well.

In lieu of constantly building shade, with more built work and verandas and roof space, the open space plays a really significant role in keeping the city cool. There's a lot of conversation around the urban heat island effect, which is the consequence of pouring too much concrete and removing all of the trees, for example.  

Probably two decades ago, well, for the last few decades, there's been this constant criticism of the suburbs and the ever-increasing suburban sprawl in favour of championing an increase in built density. But we're not sophisticated enough to understand how we might increase the built density and not have to become reliant on air conditioning in such a hot climate.
Open space is still really, really important.
Unknown speaker #3
It's a completely different thing than the climate we have. So it makes sense. But the thing is in Belgium, they, the government tries to say it's obliged to make this collective space, and it makes sense with what you say is like, we are with 10 million people on maybe a 100th of the space you are and we have a climate where it rains like constantly, so <laugh> does make a big difference.  

Congratulations with the nice work.
Simon Henley
Aaron,  Stuart. It is it's just a privilege to hear you talk about your work and also to hear you continue to talk about your work and the kind of conversation.

It was really striking that admission that a way to design a new house was to take an old plan and extend it. I thought that was really interesting. It is kind of fascinating the way people discover a way of working and begin to practice and you talk about these small projects, but they seem to be enormous pieces of architecture covering huge territory of culture, nature, climate, inviting people to participate in so many ways in the culture of the city, but also in the ethics of living in our current concern about the climate. For so many, the solution is kind of amoral and we are gonna kind of consume buildings that just work for us as opposed to, you know, making buildings, which tune you to nature, that place you in nature.

That is interesting cuz your outside spaces seem to do both. Of course they bring you closer to nature. They also bring you closer to your community and closer to the culture of people and fabric and people and all sorts of things. And now this idea of narrative brief and it all seems to make sense.

And you know, one of the things Kahn was talking about was the kind of regret that people don't appreciate, the unmeasurable aspects of things. And think that this narrative briefing, perhaps that's the root to how so much of what you do seems to speak of the unmeasurable. Which I think is fantastic.

Could we ask you sometime in the future, as Joe said, to give the talk with just the drawings?
Aaron Peters
<Laugh> yeah, let's do it. Not tomorrow cuz there's a big game on.
Simon Henley
<Laugh> Well, thank you both. And thanks everybody else for joining us.
Aaron Peters
Thanks for the invitation you're very welcome. Thanks for coming along everyone
Simon Henley
Aaron Peters
Get to bed early now.