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Award-winning Brisbane house redefines working from home

Award-winning Brisbane house redefines working from home

19 July, 2022

A house on the outskirts of Brisbane that doubles as an office has won Queensland’s top award for new house architecture.

The two-storey, five-bedroom house by Bligh Graham Architects, with separate studio and granny flat, also took out the top gong for sustainable architecture at the Australian Institute of Architects’ Queensland Architecture Awards on Friday.

Taking up less than half of its 612-square-metre site in the Brisbane satellite town of Samford Village, the house was designed before anyone had heard of COVID-19.

However, its value became clear during the pandemic, which required its owners – Bligh Graham principals (and husband and wife) Chris Bligh and Sonia Graham – to work from home and home school three children during lockdown.

It also provides a template for wider-scale adaptation of suburban blocks as people increasingly seek to work from home, Mr Bligh said.

“The pandemic wasn’t a great thing, but a good testament to how well [the house] worked,” Mr Bligh told The Australian Financial Review.

“We were very interested in the idea of flexibility in housing, and different housing types that would allow for different work models, but also expand the range of housing types available.”

The pandemic increased demand for larger homes with space, pushing up the value of single dwellings faster than apartments, as buyers looked for houses that could accommodate them, their families and their needs to work and study under one roof.

Bligh Graham’s LiveWorkShare House is shaped around a two-storey courtyard. It has two street frontages.

Living space for the family and a studio with capacity for seven people are on the ground floor, and the first floor has bedrooms and a separate granny flat.

A key challenge was creating clear boundaries between work and home life.

“When you get a home office, what we found is a really good thing to do is to be able to lock the door behind you and step out into the air,” said Mr Bligh.

To do that, each area was separated by a covered deck and had its own entrance.

“Each part has a distinct and separate entry,” Mr Bligh said. “The office staff and clients come and go from the office without impacting the house at all.”

The building was constructed at a cost of about $2500 per square metre in pre-pandemic prices, so would cost more now – but that would also depend on materials selection, Mr Bligh said.

The home’s footprint takes up just 40 per cent of the site, allowing the rest to be used for a garden, orchard and a fire pit.

“The house can breathe and not just have the neighbours on top of each other,” Mr Bligh said.

The state’s top overall award for architecture, the Queensland Medallion, went to the Andrew N. Liveris Building by Lyons and m3architecture.

The new 11-storey home of the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus also took out the top awards for educational architecture and urban design, as well as a separate interior architecture award.

Former Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris – a UQ alumnus and now president of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics Committee – along with his wife Paula, donated $13.5 million to the University of Queensland to support science leadership.

The state’s top award for public architecture went to the Muttaburrasaurus Interpretation Centre by Brian Hooper Architect in Muttaburra, a town in the Barcaldine Region of central-west Queensland.

The outdoor museum is dedicated to the most complete fossilised dinosaur skeleton found in Australia, a seven-metre-long large dinosaur that lived 100 million years ago and was discovered in 1963 by a local grazier.