The Studio of Bark Design Architects

October 24, 2009

Bark Design Architects, a small Australian practice located in Noosa Heads, Queensland, have designed a studio for themselves to work in.

Full description after the photos….

The Studio of Bark Design Architects

Architects Stephen Guthrie and Lindy Atkin’s brief for themselves was to ‘showcase’ their design approach and philosophies whilst making an inspiring place to work for the Bark Design team and their clients.

Elevated as a modernist steel and glass pavilion in the Noosa Hinterland, the Sunshine Coast based duo created a steel, glass and plywood studio as the inspiring work environment for their emerging architectural practice.

The Bark Studio explores the notion of a mixed work / house typology – a workhouse. A modest building, which can function as flexible spaces for a design team of five to six people, a house for two people and a comfortable combination of both at times.

Perched on only four steel footings in order to slot between two mature Australian Eucalypts, the modular 20 metre long structure of steel portal frames is encased with openable and fixed glazing on three sides, layered with operable blinds, framing the broad views of the Pacific coastline.

The fourth facade is presented as the ‘billboard’, a plywood clad wooden box facing the road, providing privacy, protection from the western sun, a desired ambiguity of perceived use and a big ‘drive-in movie’ projection screen. The solid nature of this form is punctured with the ‘Shop Front’ display window, horizontal glass slots and is contrasted with the northern timber entry platforms and horizontal roof planes, which simply provide lightweight framing of the landscape beyond.

Eye catching and memorable, the Bark Studio continually surprises and delights users and visitors.

Organisation of Spaces inside and out

The spatial arrangement of the building required simplicity and flexibility to accommodate a design studio of five to six people, to function as a house for two people, or a combination of both.

The main linear work space was conceived as an open veranda with compactly scaled service spaces ’plugging in’ along it’s length. These service spaces include Kitchen, Laundry, Bathrooms, File and Drawing Storage and vertical circulation.

From the main studio platform, folded plywood stairs ascend past the large ‘shopfront’ window box, displaying models of past and current projects to a mezzanine level which contains spaces for architecture books, quiet reading, sleeping and bathing.

From this mezzanine, there is a spatial, visual connection to ventilate the work spaces below whilst presenting a ‘cropped’ horizontal framing of the hinterland and coastal horizon beyond.

Relationship of the Project to it’s Site and Context

The design intentions included:

Siting the studio carefully between two magnificent mature Brown Bloodwood eucalypt trees to capture the symbiotic relationship that buildings can have with landscape.

The desired concept of lightly visually ‘floating’ the building above the natural ground line (in part, to minimise any disturbance to the natural ground line) by using only four supports, became necessary in order to maintain the extended root systems of the two magnificent mature trees.

Capturing a Commercial presence with the building sited (with Council relaxation) close to the road but with a ‘closed’ western wall for privacy from the road and for climate control.

Reserving the ‘prime’ position on site for a future residence.

Maximising the available coastal views and privacy considerations to North and West.

Framing the uninterrupted views of the coast from Noosa Heads to Coolum Mountain, with the maximum amount of glazing. This was achieved by minimising the amount of solid bracing walls that would have been required with other structural materials rather than steel.

Maintaining the natural fairly steep topography and existing water courses.

Architectural Expression of the Concept

The conceptual aims of the project included:

Making a ‘Showcase’ of our climatic and site responsive design philosophies.

In a semi rural situation the building needed to be a self contained environment and a demonstration that with appropriate site specific design and technology, knowledge based professionals such as Architects can successfully work in an alternative to the urban studio environment.

Expressing lightness, transparency, texture, seamless indoor / outdoor spaces, light and shadow, climate response, landscape integration as essential design principles.

Expressing an economy of lightweight materials within a framework of strong structural legibility.

The initial concept for this project was to create a design which could be mostly prefabricated, then assembled upon two “rails”, allowing the final building to be relocated onto another site, if required, at a later date. The final design solution was affected in three subsequent ways during the 18 months of the design process: We decided that we could never sell such a superb site and therefore the building did not need to be relocatable; Therefore, we could make the building bigger by no longer needing to consider transportability, although this may still be possible; However, our desired concept of visually ‘floating’ the building above the natural ground line (in part, to minimise any disturbance to the natural ground line) by using only four supports, became necessary in order to maintain the extended root systems of the two magnificent mature Brown Bloodwood trees.

The Studio works with a duality and contrast between the open fully glazed connection to the views and the ‘closed’ perception of the plywood box shopfront seen from the road. The ‘Shopfront’ references the timber and fibro facades of the corner shop or service station in some Queensland country towns, particularly Maidenwell near the Bunya Mountains.

Cost Effectiveness

Economy and simplicity were key driving factors in the design and detailing. The design strategies to ensure economy included: Using standard building modules to minimise wastage and labour time. The overall dimensions of the building, based on 1200mm x 2400mm plywood cladding, floor and ceiling panels express a minimize wastage. Selection of large plywood sheet panel materials for cladding, floors and ceilings. Minimising construction time. The erection of the complete structural steel frame was completed on site over five days. Three people erected the entire frame: The builder supervised and assisted, the crane driver positioned each component ready for fixing and the steel worker fixed all of the components in place (either loose bolting or tack welding and full strength butt welding after the erection was complete). This initial speed of construction allowed the completion of the roof and the infill of wall panels and glazing to bring the building to lock-up stage relatively quickly. Prioritising on window and door types i.e fixed glass versus louvers to achieve balance between economy and effective natural ventilation. Using vinyl and Aquapanel sheet lining for wet areas to spatially extend the compact spaces with economical seamless materials. Minimising the earthworks to the four (4) concrete pad footings. Working within a predetermined budget and costings by a Quantity Surveyor at initial and design development stages, and having ‘open book’ negotiations with the builder ensured the available Contract construction budget was maintained.

Environmental / Energy Efficiency

The environmental design strategies to achieve comfort included:

Maximising and controlling breezes with natural Cross flow and ‘Stack Effect’ ventilation.
Using economical lightweight materials including plywood made with plantation grown timber resource and steel which is recyclable.
Minimising earthworks
Considered orientation
Maintaining natural terrain and significant vegetation.
Using sun shade awnings and external fabric blinds

Structure, construction, materials and services

The design intentions included:

Steel was chosen specifically for its pure and simple expression of structure, speed of construction and to create a strong skeletal series of portal frames to enable efficient spanning and rigid connections for bracing.

The relationship of the building to the landscape is the building ‘floating’ above the ground as it cantilevers out over the hillside.

Steel was chosen specifically for its pure and simple expression, legibility of structure, speed of construction and to create a physically and visually strong skeletal series of ‘fine’ portal frames.

The modular design was developed using a series of 3.6 and 4.8 metre structural grids to incorporate the 1200mm standard size of ‘infill’ materials for plywood sheet walls, floors and ceilings. The steel and glass aesthetic creates a ‘legible structural order’ and a generously proportioned series of simple modest spaces.

At every junction, glass surfaces are simply juxtaposed with steel, aluminium, timber and plywood with clear, honest expression of materials and a clear legibility of structure.

Several scenarios were explored for establishing the most efficient spans, member sizes, sections and grid spacings. Rigid connections for bracing were designed using either mechanical connections or welded joints, depending upon whether junctions would be exposed or concealed.

This ensured minimal material waste and more efficient use of time for assembly by requiring negligible amounts of cutting and preparation before installation.

Statement of Significance

Subscribing to both International and site specific design ideals, the building makes a valuable contribution to the continuum of contemporary vernacular architecture of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Visit the website of Bark Design Architects – here.