The house at 5 Juad Place, Aranda was designed by Laurie Virr in 1969. It is an unusual Canberra example of the late twentieth century organic style of architecture based on a triangular module. The house was Laurie’s first commission in Canberra and displays the themes he would explore in his residential projects over the next three decades: the use of massing, geometric forms and deep roof overhangs in an energy efficient, solar house.
This house was the first significant commission offered to Laurie Virr in the two-and-a-half years after his graduation, although he had designed and built houses during the eighteen months he lived in the U.S.A. during 1963-64. Laurie’s practice, as with most other architects, started with some small local commissions for alterations and additions. The clients for the house at 5 Juad Place were the Andrews family.
The site is a 1774 square metre lot, on the side of a hill sloping to the west. One of the requirements of the brief was that all trees on the block were to be preserved. Prior to construction there were seventy-three trees on the property, and although it was necessary to remove one before construction commenced, the retention of these native trees has contributed to the strong native bush quality of the site.
When first submitted for building approval a permit was denied by the resident architect of the Department of the Interior on the grounds that the design ‘did not look like a house’. Of particular concern was the internally located kitchen, lit from above by a skylight but having no external windows. Country Women’s Association guidelines, on which Departmental policy was based, stipulated that kitchens must have external windows to allow wives to have a pleasant outlook while preparing meals and washing the dishes. On appeal, a wiser head prevailed, construction commenced and was completed without further incident.
The desire on the part of the clients to preserve the trees dictated the form of the house, the triangular module furnishing more flexibility than was possible with a rectangular grid. The brief for the house called for a living/dining area, a kitchen, two bathrooms (one associated with the main bedroom), two additional bedrooms, a laundry/utility space, and a room for Mr Andrews’ mother, with basic kitchen and dining facilities together with sleeping and closet space.
Construction is of custom made concrete masonry units, with western red cedar French doors and sash, and pine ceilings. The floor is an integrally colored and reinforced concrete slab, which is waxed and polished, and scored on the lines of the module with a grooving tool. The roof is covered with fiber-cement shingles. All glazing is 6 mm float glass.
In 1972, drawings and photographs of the completed house were chosen to form part of the Australian exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in London, U.K.