The west coast home with a zen-like sensibility
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The west coast home with a zen-like sensibility

The most surprising feature of this Perth home is what you don’t even see

By Robyn Willis
Fri, Jul 7, 2023 10:49amGrey Clock 3 min

One of the exceptional aspects of living in Australia is public access to foreshore areas. From beach promenades to riverside cycleways, being able to freely enjoy the waterways, beaches and parklands is something that many Australians hold dear.

However, for those fortunate enough to live by the water and enjoy the sometimes breathtaking views, it has its drawbacks, especially if your home is not designed to manage being in such a public position.

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The owners of this property overlooking Swan Canning Riverpark in South Perth had recently decided to buy a home in the city to be closer to their extended family of children and grandchildren. But while they love the views across the park to the Swan River and the city beyond, the strata title property left something to be desired.

Built in the 1980s, it lent heavily on floor-to-ceiling glass windows and downlighting, creating a goldfish bowl-like experience for those living within.

The property has exceptional waterfront views. The design has reached a balance between capturing the vista and managing privacy. Image: Dion Robeson

In addition to the need for privacy, project architect Suzanne Hunt says the owners wanted to create a sense of sanctuary for their home, citing peace and quiet as a high priority. They also required a home that would allow them to live in comfort and safety as they grew older, while still being stylish.

“The strata unit as it was would not allow them to age in place — it was all shiny tiles,” says Hunt. “I suggested we look at some new options that would give us the opportunity to really investigate doing a house that was smaller but had all the details they love.”

The palette is neutral and limited with multiple but interconnected living areas. Image: Dion Robeson Styling: Anna Flanders

Hunt had previously designed their existing home, a sprawling property in the Perth Hills, which had reflected the owners’ affinity with Japanese design. Given the city site had neighbours on or close to both boundaries and strata rules about height and setbacks were fixed, a Japanese approach to the design was an obvious match. It would also meet the owners’ desire for a serene environment.

“Japanese design has a calmness,” says Hunt. “There are minimal materials and the interior design is architectural. 

“The beauty is in the architecture, like timber battens on the walls.”

Starting from scratch, Hunt designed a two-bedroom, single-level home using a pared back palette made up primarily of timber, stone, concrete and glass.

“Everything in the house is calming, simple and highly crafted with a Japanese influence,” she says. 

The house has a Japanese sensibility, with wider doorways and seamless thresholds to allow the owners to age in place. Image: Dion Robeson Styling: Anna Flanders

Thresholds are seamless, doorways have been designed to be wide enough for wheelchairs to easily pass through and fixtures like taps do not require twisting to function. Skirting height sensor lights mark common pathways, like from the garage to the living space, to improve safety without compromising the interior design aesthetic.

“The lighting has been designed to make life easier for them,” she says. “It’s very subtle. One of the owners has sight issues because of cataracts, so glaring light is really bad.”

Because of the narrow nature of the site, drawing light into the north west-facing house was always going to be a challenge. Hunt designed three internal courtyards with retractable doors placed at different points throughout the floorplan to allow in light and improve ventilation. These internal gardens also serve to bring a natural element into the house, connecting it to the parklands outside. 

“The courtyards are on the west side and the east side,” Hunt says. “They have shade blinds controlled via remote control to go out over the whole courtyard to protect the plants when it is really bright light. 

“They are all plants the owner has nurtured in her greenhouse so we had instant gardens.” 

The flexibility of the design allows the owners to close the house off when the wind picks up while keeping all the internal spaces 


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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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