Gibbon Street was somewhat of an experiment for architect/ builder, Brian Klopper. Construction incorporated locally produced Maxibrick Bricks, Colourbond corrugated steel, aluminium windows and pine timber. The building comprised of economical materials that reflect the quintessential modern Australia suburban development, but with an architectural designed aptitude.
The project’s brief lacked all typical advantages, possessing no luxurious characteristics from the bland topography, to inexpensive and often concealed constituents. The site was conceived from a residential subdivision and lacked any stimulating features prior to landscape intervention. The final project was left raw, exposing Maxibrick, a contrary technique to typical residential wall systems. Its focus is toward passive movements, with even the ceiling barely requiring insulation. Instead the reliance is on a two part roofing system to shield the building from nature’s elements. Possessing one of Klopper’s trademark features, the thin iron roof extends down a steep pitch with part subtracted to feature the street front entrance. Beneath sits an inviting open plan living space.
After entering on a split level, the steel structure that protrudes the buildings walls is immediately visible, from across the first-floor corridor and upwards. The cut out from the corrugated steel floods the main entrance with southern light, and triggers Kate James to explain further. His niece, the grateful resident of one of two remaining houses still under Klopper’s ownership, is not shy in expressing the comfort she feels within the house. She begins to discuss the partially exposed roofing system that, alike the Lawson Klopper House, produces the trademark parasol roof that is a key attribute of any Brian Klopper residence.
“I just think there could be more sky here (directed to a portion of corrugated steel), I think this corridor should be more exposed, maybe he could have position the corrugated steel further along the steel grid, it’s great but there can always be more light” – Kate James
The ceiling of the first floor corridor is constructed from glass, held together with a dark steel frame that introduces light across and beneath the floor. The rooms are lit during the day without the help of a globe, and immediately it’s a successful reflection of Klopper’s simplistic, passive design strategy. From the corridor to the bedrooms, unlike the exterior, the walls inside are painted slightly off white. The pine doors of the built in wardrobes are the focus of each space, and prevent the building from straying beyond its basic pallet. The building has, as Kate crudely put it, “a slap up job feel to it. “ The materials are inexpensive; however they have been integrated so astutely that the characteristic is as rich as the homes he creates from individually sourced and recycled materials.
The light follows Kate downstairs as she walks into the living kitchen. The low ceiling opens onto a protected courtyard where Kate boasts the low temperatures she experiences during the summer months. Even with a northern orientation, the area and any air that enters the house it is cooled by the shade of a large Ficus tree, planted by Klopper during the 1996 construction. It seems the building has a solution to everything. The use of the Maxibrick brick, single glaze windows, and minimal landscaping reduce the construction costs, while the placement of a single tree produces an exterior aesthetic that compliments and humbly reflects the generous size and the simplicity of the program held within.
This instructive example of economic materials showcases the intelligence of Brian Klopper’s architectural ability. Gibbon Street demonstrates the influence that an architect can have on the occupant’s usability while restricted to the constraints typical of a typical large housing subdivision. So why can’t architects and builders collaborate to Redirect and redefine Australian suburban developments in the way Brian Klopper integrates his construction and design expertise within himself.