Australia circa 2020 will be remembered for the environmental and health ramifications of bushfire and pandemic. While deeply affecting on political and economic fronts, perhaps the most profoundly resonant shock has been felt on a social level.
COVID-19 has dramatically altered living and working patterns. Flattening the curve has meant strict physical distancing and, as we have systematically closed our doors on the world, a dichotomy has arisen between physical disconnection and digital reconnection.
Countless hours spent communicating through apps has opened new doors. Through screens, we are glimpsing private spaces. We peak over shoulders to glean insight into the person we are chatting with through the books on their shelves and the artwork on their walls. The soundtrack to life has become barking dogs, squealing children and catchphrases like “you’re on mute” and “can you all see that?”
Suddenly, private has become very public.
Private Revelations looks to a world of tomorrow shaped by COVID-19. As an architecturalresolution, its conceptual framework amplifies the recent rift in private domestic space. A consequence of the social distancing necessary to curb the upwards trends of the pandemic’s statistics, the structure uses volume, form, spatial experience and technology to explore the notion that private has become the new public.
The average house size in Melbourne is 186.3 sqm. Private Revelations corresponds with this – yet it is not a home. It is a curation of archetype spaces, collectively scaled to infer domestic volumes within a context that is entirely public.Further domestic cues are referenced in ceiling and roof forms seen as silhouettes of negative space within the otherwise solid structures of which there are four. Devoid of fussy detailing or specific material response, the quadrant structures are intended to evoke a monolithic resonance, sparking curiosity and engagement before receding to amplify the inhabitants themselves. Multiple openings provide alternate views from inside out. Angled from each corner of the square building envelope, the structures are oriented towards the centre where an interconnected courtyard allows navigation around quadrants and supports alternating frames of the interiors of each. The placement places emphasis on seeing into interior space. Flipping notions of this being private by making it inherently public.
Our intent is to build the forms out of lightweight Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC), or similar light weight materials, with each quadrant constructed in several pieces. This will give the appearance of permanence and reassuring solidity while remaining suited to the existing site conditions. Working in collaboration with a number of partner GRC companies, we have ensured feasibility with the available budget.
Each quadrant will be prefabricated offsite and lifted in to reduce site waste. Foundations will be non-invasive and, engineering permitted, potentially secured by ballast only. Sustainability has been addressed in terms of the UN definition which looks to serve the needs of the present while also projecting those of the future. In this vein, our vision is to relocate Private Revelations, whole or in parts, to locations which provide opportunity for future use due to the compliancy in the strength and sculptural simplicity of construction. We see the quadrants in future iterations as either public or private space – studios, galleries, community spaces or perhaps simple follies.
Private Revelations is the development of an idea that gives broader insight into the private becoming public. Large AV screens within each quadrant display the familiar cubic divisions populated by the faces of work colleagues, loved ones, close and distant friends with the paraphernalia of life on display behind them…or not. A human connection comes into digital focus. One that removes the context of geography and establishes an intimacy between neighbours, states, countries and continents. This audio visual layer coaxes inhabitants into the quadrants and incites dialogue specific to the conditions we have become familiar with during lockdown. It also poses the question, has private become the new public?