The Intern: Part III

NEW: THE INTERN series now features photographs!

 Tuesday, 5th November 2013

David Weir Architects 

Mosman Park, Western Australia, Australia 

Wow, what a day! Chockers full of new experiences - I'm incredibly tired, but I'm powering through to write this entry. Started off with an 8:00am site visit to Project A , which I can reveal as The Exploding! Shed House (Of which will now be simply referred to as Exploding! ) in Mt Lawley. An incredibly small house within a back lot on the precipice of two suburbs, pre-fabricated formwork and beautiful design come together to create a sheltered home and practical studio space for the designer-illustrator client, Karin Hearn.

Jacaranda mimosifolia, on site of The Exploding! Shed House

One of the most important elements of the project is the already existing large Jacaranda tree just off-centre of the site. There was no desire to remove or damage the tree, and for good reason - it's an amazing natural beauty. Why go through a great expense at removing one of the site's only features, of which would provide natural shade and enhance the environment? The decision to build around the trunk and to incorporate it within the design was, in my opinion, the only right decision. Right for the budget, right for the site, right for the design.

Caffeine cravings satisfied, courtesy of Mary Street Bakery in Mt Lawley.

Pre-fabrication usually brings along a sense of disregard for site and the thought of "cookie cutter homes". Not necessarily. Pre-fabrication design beings along a whole set of positives and negatives. For example, imagine building a flat-pack IKEA furniture piece. You've laid out all the pieces in front of you and you're ready to go. Except, you've got to work together with three other people. You all speak different languages, but you all want the furniture put together. Introduce variables in the equation, such as factory specification and tolerances - and when those tolerances don't work out, issues start to bubble up. Now, increase the size of that four seater dining table by about 100-fold, with each passing day that you don't complete the build, someone comes along and takes a good pick out of your wallet.

In saying this, pre-fabrication has many advantages. A faster build time should ensue, given the right set of circumstances. As it all arrives on site at the same time, and there's no post-fabrication needed, the raw construction time required on site is significantly reduced. This also means that factors such as noise and site pollution, builder's costs and required project supervision can be drastically reduced - a huge advantage for those who have a small budget.  Of course, these are my opinions based on my observations and education.

Exploding!  does what it needs to do. Simple, lightweight construction for a humble client who has a modest budget. Other contemporary methods of constructing a home would be impractical and out of reach from a financial point-of-view. Standing within the construct at a time when the bare bones are visible makes you wonder as to how it would feel when completed: would it still evoke those feelings of being light and small? I will be following the construction period very intently. After all, it's only walking distance from my own residence.

Structural details, The Exploding! Shed House.  A sense of pareidolia?

Moving away from the site, myself and another intern, Lauren, were sent to do a site measure of a backyard residence (Project...C?)  in Nedlands. Equipped with a tape measure and a laser measure - which amazed me, never seeing one before - we got to work marking out on a rudimentary sketch of the backyard all the dimensions required to proceed with some schematic design. By all means, it's not a small backyard - 340 square metres, at the very least. After dodging an extremely hyperactive puppy that was intent on bounding on us, we made our way back to the office to mark it all up on AutoCAD.

The drawing board.

 There is only so much that computers can achieve for architectural design. They are an amazing and all-powerful tool for creating multiple drawings at once along with some "money shot" renders, but the foundation work of design is done with some trace paper and multiple pens and pencils; whatever medium you fancy. Get the basic designs down with a simple tool, and computer drawings and renders should follow down the line. Unfortunately, it's a trap that many first and second years get caught in - including myself, a huge culprit. Probably the one with the largest dollar amount on a huge WANTED poster for crimes against design. Somebody please mock something up in that regard for me to hang on my wall.

Following on from a sketch by Dave, I set to work doing a few drawings, considering the requirements by the client. Requests of Balinese inspiration were considered - a thatched roof was unanimously denied from the get-go. A few revisions later, a sketch design was put forward, reworked with "the budget pen" (a very thick black marker that brought your designs back to planet Earth in a very practical and humourous manner) and shelved for another time. It was 2:00pm, and it was time to head down to MYRE Fremantle and work on Dave's Cans!

This is not a lollipop. This is electrical power. No one Dave's Cans man can have all that power.

Today was the first time I've witnessed vehicles on the rooftop. I've seen vehicles up there, and my curious mind always wondered how they got up there - not realising there's an adjacent parking lot next door. Duh doy. 

Arriving on site, we found that the electricians have installed a huge Chupa-Chup on the wall. I was about to unwrap that sucker and enjoy my afternoon, but got stopped when told it contained all the power. All the power.  Needless to say, it certainly stopped me, but didn't stop the thought of comparing it to the sugar-packed sweet.

We made some pretty huge progress today. The light blue strip is completed on the wall, along with a 1200mm diameter light blue dot to complement it. There's a bit of symbolism tied within this and other projects by Dave, but that's something that you might have to figure out if and when you get the chance to see Dave's Cans in the flesh, and also perhaps some Sherlock-level detective work.

The dark blue planter box outline was completed today with the help of Dave's brother, Andrew. Having four pairs of hands on site to complete different tasks really helps speed along the process - as of now, there's not too much to do until the operational bar goes in. Until then, the small details such as plants and the construction of the stage and planters will take precedence. 

Progress! Dave's Cans!

Before we left for the evening, we grabbed a few pallets that were left on site from a previous event, and mocked up a section of the fence to review how it would look. The pallets were of a different size, but we ignored that fact and got about five over from the pile and set them up on the corner block near the stage. The effect was perfect. It does what it needs to do, but it's simple and easy to construct; and deconstruct, if needed.  I took quite a few photos trying to get the sunset into it, but figured that I would leave the lens flare hero-esque shots to Michael Bay, and choose an angle that would give the impression that the entire fence is constructed.

I don't find this a-fence-ive.

Left MYRE Fremantle bound for home at about 7:00pm. A very long day but filled with challenges and results. Next week is a bit in the air; I'm due to donate platelets in the morning, so that would be detrimental to construction efforts as I would not be able to lift heavy objects. How convenient . Discussions of increasing the internship to two days a week surfaced, including the now uni-free Monday. We'll see how it goes.


- c.