28 Sep 2015
Andrew Kerr is an emerging architect based in Tasmania, a few months ago he embarked on the 60k House project. As the name suggests, he is attempting to build a house – a comfortable, one-bedroom house, with just $60,000 for the construction (not including land cost, consultant fees or services).
In our first member feature, Andrew answered some questions about his project. You can also keep up to date on his project via his blog 60khouse.com.au.
- Tell us about the 60k house project
60k House is a small project with a modest budget. It’s all about designing for needs in favor of wants – adequacy instead of excess. The one-bedroom shack is 60 square metres and satisfies all of my spatial and functional requirements. It’s a personal opportunity to test some thoughts and develop both design and construction skills while delivering a comfortable, affordable house for myself.
Many people of my generation are priced out of the current housing market or pushed to the periphery. I disagree with the need for a large house and even larger mortgage. 60k House may be considered a critique of this situation; a practical means of exploring a philosophical position.
60k House is about place and home – a vernacular shack that enables enjoyment of the surrounding landscape and recalls the days of the local fruit orchards that operated in this area. It is a way for me to consider what I love about ‘home’ without the restrictions of ‘house’.
“The best way to make real architecture is by letting a building evolve out of the culture and place” – Samuel Mockbee
The project is currently at the frame up stage with the roof scheduled to go on next week. To achieve the cost / quality balance, materials will be a mix of rough and refined, salvaged and second hand: the timber cladding will be milled onsite from several trees that needed to be removed for bushfire protection; recycled bricks from the local post office chimney have been cleaned and will provide thermal mass for the main internal wall. 60k house is after all about performance.
The blog 60khouse.com.au is to keep friends who might like to follow the project up to date with progress, to show people how the design and approvals process has worked, and to demonstrate that design needn’t lead to ‘big and expensive’. It is nice too that the design will gradually be revealed as the construction progresses.
- You’re documenting the project as you go – do you find this helps you to reflect on your own process and even progress?
Certainly. The relationship between having a basic but solid starting point – a basic plan that will function – and working with that in the process of building is an interesting method and critical for this project. One of the attractions of 60k House is the need to make decisions and resolve details as we build. The documentation was kept purposely loose so as to allow the builder involvement in the decision making process. It is not usually necessary for architects to tell builders how to build: an architect can communicate how they want something to function or look, but should at least consider input from the builder when it comes to making it happen. 60k House is about working together as a team.
Being onsite and responsible for providing set outs and dimensions to the builder has also been a stimulating exercise and will certainly inform the nature and type of documentation and information that I provide in future projects. How a builder builds determines the information that they need, and 60k House is helping me to broaden my knowledge of this dynamic.
It has been nice to receive positive feedback as the project progresses – the real test though will come when it is finished, including its ability to accommodate the opening party scheduled for mid November. There is always a great thrill of anticipation in walking around and through a building that you have designed – especially if it is for yourself.
- What are the practical skills you’re taking away from this project and what advice do you have for other emerging architects?
It is fascinating to see how an experienced builder goes about their trade. All too often emerging architects (myself included) will draw a line or detail and not fully understand the wider implications or how that translates into built form. Being onsite each day and involved in all aspects of the build has already been a valuable lesson and given me a much deeper understanding of the construction process.
“A construction site is an incredibly instructive place for an architect” – Jorn Utzon
As well as building skills gained during construction I am also learning more about project management, cost control, organising trades, arranging quotes and ordering materials. These are all useful, even invaluable skills to have and have already provided me with greater insight into other projects that are currently on the drawing board.
My advice for other emerging architects: just get out and do it! Be brave. Find out. Push yourself. Build.
“When an architect is asked what his best building is, he usually answers, ‘the next one’” – Emilio Ambasz
KEEP UP TO DATE ON ANDREW’S PROGRESS OVER AT 60KHOUSE.COM.AU
The Institute does not endorse 60k House or its associated blog 60khouse.com.au – any content is solely the product of its author.