MSD DIRECTOR’S SERIES 2012 – Tony Chenchow

Loopholes, Mutations, Precedents: Three Aspects of a Small Architectural Practice
Introduction by: Professor Philip Goad – Director, Melbourne School of Design
Presentation by: Tony Chenchow – Chenchow Little Architects
16 May 2012 – Robin Boyd House, South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia

Presentation Outline:

Over the last 10 years, the work of my office has sometimes attracted attention because of some unusual aspects in the local context of Sydney architecture. In this first part of my talk, I will explain how innovation is underpinned by a patient reading of council planning codes. We often begin a design by tabulating council requirements in order to locate “points of complication” or loopholes. The Pitched Roof House exploited a disjunction between the planner’s ideal image of pitched roof suburbia expressed in words and the designer’s drawing of a roof that can be pitched but unconventional. The Skylight House exploited the council’s obsession with street frontage while the Semi-Detached House played a game with the FSR (floor space ratio).

Our clients often come to us asking for something similar to a previous project that has just been published, however we resist replicating a previous project. Our peers often notice the differences between our projects, yet the tug between the clients and ourselves might be better understood as creating a mini-series of projects. Novel aspects in our work are products of evolution rather than revolution: one existing form combined with another to become something different that meets the demands of a new situation or purpose. I shall discuss two sets of projects: the Semi-Detached House and the Bell Romero Houses as a pair, and the Szirtes House, Freshwater House and Bondi House as a series.

In the last part of my talk, I would like to go beyond “local” issues such as codes and clients and turn towards a broad range of international precedents that might be considered in relation to our projects. Generally speaking, we do not pick precedents on the basis of typology, scale, local tradition, or materials. By juxtaposing project and precedent, locales and elsewhere, as stark contrasts, we try to set up resonances and surprises. I shall illustrate this approach to precedents by discussing the Szirtes House, the Freshwater House and the Semi-Detached House.

Tony Chenchow is the founding partner of Chenchow Little with Stephanie Little. Their work has attracted strong interest from international and local publications, including Casabella, MARK, Architectural Record and Architecture Australia.

The practice has received many awards for their work, including the Australian Institute of Architects Robin Boyd Award in 2010. Chenchow Little was also included in Architectural Record ‘Design Vanguard 2010’.


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