The application of vernacular Australian environmental design principles in Glenn Murcutt’s architecture

Lecaro, M., Lau, B., Rodrigues, L. and Jarman, D. 2017. The application of vernacular Australian environmental design principles in Glenn Murcutt’s architecture. Future Cities and Environment. 3 (1). doi:10.1186/s40984-017-0026-6

TitleThe application of vernacular Australian environmental design principles in Glenn Murcutt’s architecture
TypeJournal article
AuthorsLecaro, M., Lau, B., Rodrigues, L. and Jarman, D.
Abstract

Glenn Murcutt is recognised as one of the most influential architects of the last few decades. His design philosophy, environmental awareness and in-depth understanding of the Australian context and vernacular architecture, have made him one of the leaders of critical regionalism worldwide. His buildings not only provide shelter, but also offer comfort with lower environmental impacts through simple, yet creative design solutions. Although Murcutt’s architecture is well documented, limited evidence-based research has been undertaken to study his approach to design and how this has a direct influence on visual and thermal comfort in his buildings; this paper aims to fill this gap.

In this work, the authors have conducted a critical review of three of his most celebrated projects from the environmental design perspective, Marie-Short, Ball-Eastaway, and Marika-Alderton Houses. Even though these houses share a similar building typology, their time of design, location, climate, orientation, tectonics and environmental requirements greatly differ, offering an opportunity for comparative analysis. Through theoretical qualitative and quantitative studies, the close connection between the spatial qualities, environmental design strategies and performance of these houses were investigated in detail. The impact and implications of the reinterpreted elements of Australia’s vernacular architecture including verandahs, overhangs, roofing shape, building form and layout, had on the performance and spatial delight of the houses was explored through computer aided modelling. Daylighting and thermal performances were assessed and analysed in correlation with Murcutt’s environmental design strategies.

Through this investigation it is clear that while cross-ventilation and shading devices were adopted in buildings to prevent excessive solar ingress during summertime, Murcutt seems to consciously favour scenic views, and a constant connection with nature over visual and thermal comfort. Although the three houses experience occasional visual and thermal discomfort, the research findings suggest that they perform well as free-running buildings for most of the time. They are found to be sensibly designed to be climatically adaptable, skilfully built and spatially delightful, whilst keeping a continuous dialogue with nature; it is achieving this unique balance that lies the significance of Murcutt’s work.

KeywordsCritical regionalism Spatial delight Climate responsive buildings Environmental comfort
Article number3
JournalFuture Cities and Environment
Journal citation3 (1)
ISSN2363-9075
Year2017
PublisherSpringer
Publisher's version35-120-1-PB.pdf
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1186/s40984-017-0026-6
Publication dates
Published04 Apr 2017
LicenseCC BY 4.0

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