If the saying good things come in small packages is correct then we have much to look forward to when The Tiny House Company present their talk at the third UQ Architecture Lecture on Tuesday 15 March.
Lara Nobel and Andrew Carter of The Tiny House Company are graduate architects and apprentice carpenters who, together with builder friend Greg Thornton, designed and built a tiny house on a trailer. It is ready to function off-grid. The house is the size of two car parking spaces (minus the modular deck) – you can fit 13 of their houses in the average Australian house.
Let’s find out more about what drives The Tiny House Company to live small but dream big.
Tell us a little about your background, and what originally led you to architecture?
As a kid, Andrew found himself making a scale model of his parents’ house from some dusty old plans he found, so that was a pretty clear sign of what lay ahead for him. Lara had been offered a scholarship to study fine arts but also had ideas of becoming a geneticist. She started a science degree but found the chemistry in particular didn’t come naturally. That year her parents were building a studio in the yard and she got involved in the design and build. Architecture was suggested as a career. She’d always loved structures and building projects – it seemed like a good fit.
Can you give us a little insight into what a normal work day looks like for you?
Having side-stepped into carpentry apprenticeships, a normal work day involves plenty of manual labour – a humbling experience coming from an office job. For us this experience is essential in understanding the real-world implications of the decisions we make in our architecture practice.
What are some daily office rituals or habits you employ to enhance your productivity and creativity?
What principles inform your work?
There are two aspects to our philosophy. One is on the individual level – smaller, more sustainable dwellings and lifestyles. In particular how to design liveable, compact spaces. The other requires larger gestures on a community, state and national level. These issues relate more to town planning and policy, large buildings and urban gestures. Both levels are critical, and Australia provides relatively few precedents to learn from. We also consider it very important to balance the more poetic design gestures with practical considerations. Playing the role of designer and builder means we have to justify decisions on two fronts.
Where do you go for design inspiration?
We’re inspired by simple, elegant design solutions that are cost effective and durable. The recognition that the built environment is both a great cost to the natural world and simultaneously a great asset to our lifestyle and advancement comes with a big responsibility. We’re inspired by designers who hold people at the core of their work. But there are so many sources for inspiration out there, especially working on site with beautiful materials and clever tradespeople.
What has been a career highlight for you so far?
To date the most significant project for us has been the smallest. Together with Greg Thornton, we have designed and are built an off-grid tiny house on a trailer. It has been a steep learning curve as we’ve been acting as architects, on-site foremen, builders, project managers, apprentice carpenters, and company directors (a very difficult combination of roles). The project is an exploration of how to strike a balance between a comfortable, beautiful home and a more affordable lifestyle that reduces our impact on the planet.
Which Australian or international architecture people, practices, designers or similar do you admire?
The late ‘Sambo’ Mockbee, founder of the Rural Studio, who worked to make great design genuinely affordable and taught a generation of young designers to do the same. Their work is beautiful, intelligent, and done for all the right reasons. Breathe Architecture for exploring alternative ways to develop and Donovan Hill for beautiful sub-tropical buildings that push the boundaries.
What are your top five favourite design books?
Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency by Andrea Oppenheimer and Timothy Hursley
The Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, and Sara Ishikawa
The Japanese House by Heinrich Engel
It’s Lonely in the Modern World: The Essential Guide to Form, Function, and Ennui from the Creators of Unhappy Hipsters by Molly Jane Quinn
What can attendees to your lecture expect to hear and see?
They’ll get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the emerging ‘tiny house movement’ in Australia. They’ll see how this type of housing might satisfy our existing ‘Australian Dream’ of home ownership, where it might fall short, and what obstacles are preventing more people from downsizing their homes and lifestyles.
We’ll talk about our journey so far starting a business designing and building tiny houses. It will be an honest reflection on some of the opportunities and challenges we’ve faced. Condensing a home into 18 square metres is not an easy task, but we’ve given it a go and had the rare opportunity to welcome thousands of people into our tiny home to share their impressions. Consider this a ‘progress report’ of our efforts so far promoting the tiny house movement in Australia.
When: Tuesday 15 March
Where: SLQ Auditorium 1, level 2, State Library of Queensland
Architectural professionals who attend the series will be eligible for two formal continuing professional development points (CPD). This event will also be livestreamed.