Studio 26

A Soft Focus on Domestic Things: A Garden House

Colby Vexler & Pricilla Heung

This studio is available to students enrolled in ABPL90142 Studio C, ABPL90143 Studio D, and ABPL90115 Studio E.

Studio Description

Subtle gestures turn ground into site. Pegged out and legislated; fenced in and given tangible measurements.

Boundaries and area. A series of steps “allow” ground to be domesticated.

So, ground becomes site, site becomes potential. Negotiated, zoned, cultivated, tended to, cared for.

Setbacks and provisions; foundations, slabs and openings under a roof.

A bed, essential utilities, and some storage; site houses home and house occupies site.

But what dwells between site and building? The garden of course! Call it the front yard, the backyard, the courtyard, some gravel, weeds growing along side, or even those potted plants that inhabit a kind of interior - the garden dwells at the ambiguous edge of domesticity, somewhere between house and its site.

A Soft Focus on Domestic Things pays close attention to the movement of soil, the demarcation of boundaries, aspect of containment, enclosure and cover, and of course domestic things. In doing so, the work attempts to re-understand the obvious yet complex relations between site, garden and house.

Through precise, highly literal, and wryly self-conscious representation, drawings, renders and text hope to re-perceive matters present within mundane acts of domestication…or at least produce well-considered houses on well-examined sites.

Studio Outcomes

The work produced here will not perpetuate “ideal living” fantasies or re-affirm unsubstantiated “practical” tropes about contemporary houses.

Instead, this studio draws heavily from perceptual interpretations of notable precedent houses to encourage genuinely considered observations, profound moments of understanding, and to generate the production of subtle architectural outcomes. With restraint, austerity and sincerity, students will think fast and move carefully to explore the contemporary phenomena that construct and challenge residential architecture.

Over a 12 week course, a sustained line of inquiry will guide students through three territories of concern:

1. A Domestic Site:

Examining one of three environments (Fringe, Suburban or Urban) students will speculate on a set of contemporary phenomena that effectively transform a piece of land into a domestic site. Here we will develop theoretical positions and establish tangible conditions to situate the house-design to come.

2. A Soft Focus on Domestic Things:

Primarily focusing on three line of domestication: area, containment and cover, students will immerse themselves in contemporary architectural reference in order to critically explore housing typologies, garden logics, programmatic assemblages, elemental configurations and the various conditions that construct or challenge the way we live in and around domestic environments.

3. A Garden and a House:

In the final stage of the semester students will design a house and a garden that reflect on the discoveries made in stages 1 and 2. The project presented will teeter between philosophical prompt and speculative, yet refined architectural proposal. The proposal will challenge preconceived notions of site, garden, house, home and acts of domestication within the contemporary context.

Thus the final outcome will be a well considered house, on a well examined site.

*Note: this studio will strictly operate through group work. It is expected that students in this class have the skill set to work professionally in groups through equal contribution, rapid refinement and critical conversation. We see each group acting as an office, who work together to produce a single, highly refined outcome.

Further, while this studio will run primarily on campus, some of our sessions will also be held online.

To see former outcomes, please visit:

Studio Leaders

Colby Vexler is an architectural researcher and practitioner.  He is also the editor of online contemporary architectural publication, cc:Journal.

Pricilla Heung is a practising architect whose work focuses solely on the the residential realm.

In late 2020, Vexler and Heung founded Office Heuler, an architecture practice committed to contemporary residential architecture, to extend the lines of inquiry established by Studio 26 into a practice environment.

Readings & References

A reading list will be provided to students in week 1.

Outside of this, we hope prospective students of this studio will immerse themselves in contemporary practice by exploring projects published in 2G, El Croquis, GA, JA and A+U. Further, we hope students will be avid readers of journals such as OASE, San Rocco, Accattone and The Architecture Review. This is because readings and references will allow students to better navigate the complex and ambivalent canon in which their projects are expected to sit.

Schedule Mondays, Thursdays 10:00-17:00 in MSD Room 142

Contact Handbook

Need enrolment assistance?

Stop 1 provides enrolment and other support to Bachelor of Design, Bachelor of Environments and Melbourne School of Design students.