Review: A Place In The Sun

As this is my first book review for the blog I must make one thing very clear I own that many architectural books despite the fact that I am an architect. To be brutally honest the ones I do own I rarely look at. For example I own a copy of Wiel Arets: Works, Projects and Writings by Xavier Costa which is still sitting in its plastic wrapper and don’t get me started on my copy of 10x10x2.

Anyway I decided I would break with tradition and actually read Stuart Harrison’s recently published A Place In The Sun and not just look at the pretty pictures, of which there are many. I did this in part because a) I wanted some inspiration for any future extension to my house and b) I was just plain interested to see what one of the hosts of ‘The Architects’ had to say about Australian residential architecture.

In his introduction, Harrison states that:

The houses in this book approach the sun with intelligence – they are designed to work with the sun, not against it. They take different architectural approaches – some projects reveal good passive design to reduce energy, and others focus on how light adds magic to an interior, and makes simply being inside a fulfilling experience.

Containing houses from both Australia and New Zealand (although to be fair those from the land of the white cloud are vastly outnumbered) the book are organised by latitude starting in 1770 in Queensland and heading to south to finish in Wanaka in New Zealand. It is an interesting and clever way of organising the content and for a book about the sun it seems rather apt. Strangely enough though no houses in Darwin got a mention.

What impressed me about the book was the range of architects contained within its covers and for the most part meets the criteria as set out in the introduction. If one was to pick up this book without knowing its premise one assumes it is a look at contemporary residential architecture in Australia and New Zealand. It must have been a difficult process to restrict some firms to only one project especially with the likes of McBride Charles Ryan putting together a killer collection of houses in recent years.

The climate in a country as large as Australia provides so many challenges for architects purely for the variation that exists. This book brilliantly highlights these challenges purely through the variety of projects and range of architects on offer. There is no one simple solution to dealing with Australia’s climate and Harrison manages to showcase a variety of responses be it either in similar or varied locations  that are sure to inspire many a budding architect.

The only criticism that I have is that whilst not denying that each house was
beautifully photographed I found the words accompanying them to be a little
repetitive. Too often a brief introduction of the house was followed by a description of what was going on in the plan. Sometimes it felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. Each project was accompanied by a quote from the architect and I would have liked to see more of this kind of thing expanded on in the main text of the book.

As for the houses that I will be unashamedly stealing ideas from for any extension that I undertake on my own house the Two Way House by DRAW, the Watson Bay House by Supercolossal and the Trial Bay House by James Jones and Heffernan Button Voss will do just nicely.

Image taken from thedesignfiles.net
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