Award-winning Canberra architect Ben Walker talks to House of Home about the raw aesthetics of industrial materials.
You’d never know that this top floor Penthouse is part of a newly built apartment complex in the Canberra suburb of Braddon. Yet its edgy, raw finishes of recycled brick, steel and concrete sit easily in this former industrial suburb-turned hipster hangout.
When architect Ben Walker was brought on to complete the internal fit out, the building was a concrete shell. “From early on it was clear from discussions with the clients that they had a desire to utilise high quality and bespoke finishes,” Ben explains.
While ceiling heights and some internal wall finishes were already in place, there was huge scope to create clever joinery elements to define the interior spaces and allow rooms to open or close. Ben’s choice of finishes was also key in providing the apartment with internal character and texture.
The central joinery element (and Ben’ favourite piece), is an incredible timber wall which greets visitors at the entry. It is, in fact, a clever joinery component featuring recycled timber which houses TV and AV equipment as well as an expanse of storage. The timber is roughly brushed and varies in colour, creating a lovely warm and inviting entry feature.
The joinery was also key to achieving the most important aspect of this design — creating flexibility. Ben designed much of the space to be transitional and cope with Canberra’s capricious weather. “Although Canberra has a highly variable climate between winter and summer, we regularly have long periods of beautiful sunny days in between. I try to take advantage of those periods of weather and maximise the potential for visual and physical connection to adjoining landscapes and gardens by using high quality glazing and stacking doors.” The result on this project is large expanses of glass which allow light to spill deep into the apartment and huge doors which open onto the large balcony.
The owners also wanted the internal spaces to be flexible and multi-use. “The study has a large steel and glass sliding door that can be used to open or close that space from the main living area depending on the number of occupants at any given time,” Ben continues.
There are numerous industrial references throughout the apartment; and many of the elements are used in clever and unusual ways. The benchtops, shelving, cupboard door fronts and door and window reveals are made of mild steel plate. There is perforated steel mesh on sliding cupboard doors and ceilings. Recycled hardwoods feature throughout the joinery, wet area benchtops and wall cladding. And each of these components is custom designed, individually detailed and hand crafted. As Ben explains, “there is a consistency to the detailing that provides a cohesive link between the different materials used - the joinery becomes a series of furniture pieces inserted within the apartment volume.” And while there is an underlying rawness to the materials, there is also a familiarity and warmth that gives the apartment its unique character.
Ben’s design is purposeful, every element carefully considered to ensure it sits comfortably within its environment. He admits that he often uses repetition of detailing and includes strong proportional qualities to create cohesion in his designs, similar to those in this apartment. And he loves using industrial materials like steel because of its durability and capacity to display textural and colour change in varying light. So what’s next for Ben Walker Architects?
“Canberra is a very interesting place to work in at the moment as the city undertakes regeneration. We’re continuing to focus on a range of project types and scales so our future is looking very busy and varied,” he says.
We would like to thank Ben Walker and BWA for inviting us to step inside this incredible apartment. The Braddon penthouse won the 2016 Colorbond Steel Award, Australian Institute of Architects ACT Chapter Awards in 2016 and received a commendation in the Interior Architecture category for the 2016 Australian Institute of Architects ACT Chapter Awards.
Project Credits Interior Architecture: Ben Walker | Basebuild Architects: Dezignteam | Joinery: Matrix Joinery | Photography: Lightstudies
Special thanks to House of Home Contributor, Kate Shaw for writing this aticle.
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