Unlocking Open House

“It is not enough to see architecture; you must experience it.”
Steen Eiler Rasmussen

Every weekend you’ll find a horde of people wandering the array of project homes at display villages. Admittedly, these life-size models are useful for buyers to determine what could be available for their lot size and budget. Experiencing the homes in the flesh instils buyer confidence; consumers favour the certainty these display homes offer.

In comparison, unique architectural residential works are privately owned and therefore without access to the general public. At best they know only of their existence through glossy magazines or Pinterest. Despite providing clients with artistic sketches or even photo-real renders, architects rely heavily on their client’s ability to mentally visualise outcomes, rather than physically experience what they’re investing in. Visualisation is a skill easily taken for granted by creatives; not everyone has the ability. Many architectural designs are also layered with poetic concepts or embedded meaning; qualitative aspects that aren’t quantifiable, instead need to be experienced.

Enter Open House. An annual two-day event celebrating architectural works typically restricted to the public. Founded in London 25 years ago, the once-small gathering has organically expanded to 41 cities across five continents.2 Perth joined the bandwagon in 2012, and while initial attendees were likely associates of the profession, free entry and growing media exposure has expanded the demographic with the event welcoming over 220,000 visitors since its inception.3 Powered by sponsors, volunteers and a collective of local architects, the shared aim is to promote quality design.

The value of Open House is the direct experience of the buildings themselves; the elusive qualities architects can offer become tangible. The intimate encounter of richly textured materials, the use of light in a space, or the site specific framing of a charming view. Discovering a project in your local neighbourhood teeming with personality inspires others to recognise the level of quality obtainable- good design can be available to everyone.

The eclectic mix also demonstrates the breadth of our capabilities, from public stadiums to private micro-homes, advocating the role of architecture in projects with budgets big and small. Providing the opportunity for guided tours of various styles and typology fosters a greater understanding of the complexity and process of architecture, and how each piece can contribute to our city identity over time.

The rising popularity of Open House indicates increased public interest in architecture. Experiencing these spaces stimulates dialogue; igniting relevant discussion of sustainable design, infill housing and public space in Perth. Encouraging the public to become more engaged and knowledgeable about the value of quality design will raise appreciation of the profession and the expectation for a well-built urban environment.

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1 Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. “Experiencing architecture” First MIT Press paperback ed. Cambridge, Mass: M.I.T. Press, 1964.

2 “Open House Family: Open House and its Values” Open House Worldwide, Accessed 25 April 2018. http://www.openhouseworldwide.org/openhouse/

3 “About” Open House Perth, Accessed 25 April 2018. https://www.openhouseperth.net/about/