NGV Architecture Commission Design Competition 2024
Sebastian Tiong & Alex Yuen
The British adage goes it is “as safe as houses”. To adapt it to the Australian context, adding the material descriptor [brick] would be more accurate. The humble suburban [brick] house is ingrained in our national psyche – The Australian Dream. Our [brick] houses are the embodiment of our aspirations, accomplishments, and sense of upwards social mobility. They also provide for our need for safety – from our harsh climate, security threats, and importantly financial stability.
In an era of rising geopolitical tensions, climate change, increasing economic inequality and unaffordable housing, are we building our proverbial house from a material that will withstand these future challenges?
Can our [brick] houses provide for our collective future prosperity and security ….. or have the [brick] houses we have built left us exposed to the elements in an increasingly turbulent, uncertain and contested environment?
Is our faith in the old adage a safe bet anymore?
The proposal recreates the classic Australian [brick] suburban house as depicted by Howard Arkley in the Family Home: Suburban Exterior (1993) painting. Taking inspiration from two design icons of 70s Australian Suburbia (a period when housing was most affordable) – the hills hoist and outdoor folding vinyl lounge chair – the installation exaggerates the visual appearance of brick coursing using vinyl rope cladding.
The concept is to interrogate the materiality of brick and by association the notions of prosperity, security, and stability we have collectively placed on [brick] houses.
Is the Australian Dream and the perceived safety connotated by the materiality of brick all an illusion?