Are you thinking of building a house in Canberra? What are the benefits of using an architect?

When thinking about building a home in Canberra, there are generally 3 options available to people; 1, working with a pre-designed home, usually through a building company; 2, working with a building designer or designer that prepares drawings based on a set of selectable options or; 3, working with a registered architect.

It is quite evident when looking at the current new housing stock that sprawls through the landscape like an endless tapestry, options 1 and 2 seem to be the options attractive to most people. It could be the convenience of a pre-designed home with a fixed option of finishes, and available at an assumed lower price that tends to win out against engaging an architect.

Some pre-designed homes do come with clever and considered floor plans. These houses can adequately respond to people’s lifestyles and do come in a number of ‘styles’ and colours that are attractive to people. Their mass-produced nature also creates an economy of scale which also results in an ‘affordable option’ for a lot of people.

So, if there are so many benefits to not using an architect – why on earth would you use an architect to design a home for you and your family?

The important discussion to have around this topic is ‘what is a home/family home?’

Is it a ‘house,’ some random structure where we sleep and eat? Is it a status symbol that we use to impress our neighbours and friends? Or, is it merely a stepping stone on our path towards financial enlightenment and freedom?  For some people, it may just be these things, but for other people, it could be something much much more.

Is a house a home?

To start, let’s look at how we inhabit houses or homes. Let’s look at what we do in them. Look at our furniture and the colours of our walls – furniture and colours we picked because we feel comfortable and secure in it, furniture and colours that reflect our personality in some way. Look at the pictures of our family that hang on our walls – icons or trophies that we surround ourselves with to create a sense of belonging. How do we feel when we lie in our bed? I guess we feel like it is ‘our’ bed – our special place. What does our house smell like? It smells like us, doesn’t it? We know this because when we go into someone else’s house it smells different.

Every weekend Bunnings is a bustling chaos of people buying more stuff for the ongoing quest to improve and transform our houses. Generally, there is no overarching strategic plan to what we buy or why we buy it. It is almost an organic never-ending process of converting our house into a physical representation of who we are as people or families at a particular place in time. It is something unique, primordial, personal, and with a sense of profound intimacy.

Now go to your parent’s house. If you lived there at one time in your life, you feel a connection with the past, who you were as a child. Again, feelings of connectivity and belonging emerge when you look at the photos, the furniture, and when you take in the sounds and smells.

Now imagine if you had a house with no furniture or clothes or other icons in it. Like the new pre-designed home you just bought, it feels pretty empty, right? Well, imagine if that space, even with nothing in it, could be complete. What if the space spoke to you about who you are, made you feel comfortable, and gave you a sense of connectivity with your family? What if the space made you feel that you belonged right where you were, that you had reached some sort of unknown cosmic destination? What if the space could somehow resonate with your culture and the values that you hold close to your heart? How could a series of empty spaces do that?

If you engage an architect (and there are many great architects in Canberra to choose from), to design your home, you embark on a journey of creating a map of who you and your family are as physical and psychological beings at a certain point in time. An architect’s role can be to translate this map into a series of structured and ordered forms, experiential spaces and materials reflective of you. An architect can make a physical and spatial resemblance of you and your brief as a marker of time transposed into a series of elements reflective of the site and place upon which your house is built. When you move through this space, it recreates the experience of who you are. Light filters through this space almost like it dances around you. It hugs you and holds you to the space.

Twenty years later if you walk through this space again you can be transported through time back to the person you were when you first walked through the space. It almost feels like you are being embraced by a long-lost friend or lover. The space talks to you, it intimately connects with you. It becomes your own unique space – the space where you belong. No one else can experience this feeling expect for you and your family.

This is the ‘architecture of home’.

Now finally imagine if every house in your street was designed by an architect. How enriching and diverse would that street become? How many stories could be told by just walking through this street?

A new tapestry can be made, and when you walk through your front door, do you feel like you have walked into a house or a home?

TYPOLOGY Architecture is focused on exploring ‘the architecture of home’ and can assist you with the design of your next project.