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Type: Theses
Title: Pattern, contingency and lifestyle: the houses of Troppo architects
Author: Huang, Jessica Hsiao-Li
Issue Date: 2017
School/Discipline: School of Architecture and Built Environment
Abstract: Troppo Architects, a multi-award-winning practice originally established in Darwin in the tropical Top End of Australia in 1980, has long been regarded as a leader among a small vanguard of Australian architects focused on climatically responsive design. Over a period of three decades, founding partners, Phil Harris and Adrian Welke, grew and incrementally expanded the practice to five regional offices – Darwin, Townsville, Adelaide, Byron Bay and Perth – across Australia. Whilst the practice has had to adapt in order to address and respond to a greatly expanded range of both climatic and socio-cultural variations in context, it has continued to attract outstanding critical acclaim including a Global Award for International Sustainable Architecture in 2010 and the Gold Medal of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2014. How this design practice has succeeded in sustaining its own internal cohesion through such a process of major organisational growth and change while it has also sustained its capacity to respond effectively to context and clients’ needs in a distinctive and exemplary manner, is the multifaceted question explored in this thesis. The study focuses exclusively on Troppo’s single family houses. It investigates how residential designs from the regional offices in the decade up to 2014 relate to the ideas and values that Harris and Welke espoused in their first decade of practice in Darwin. Through a theoretical framework that engages this work with concepts of pattern language, contingency, and responsive cohesion between designs and their physical and psychological contexts, the study offers insight into relationships between Troppo’s design ideas, their values, and their attitudes to space, place, culture, and the quality of delight in environments for everyday living. Fieldwork-based and centred on a cluster of comprehensive case studies, the methodology also includes extensive interviews with both the architects and the residents of the houses in question, formal analysis of original design documentation as well as the built and occupied houses, observation of design processes within the different regional Troppo offices, and the most thorough examination yet undertaken of the archives of the Troppo practice. PART 1 presents an initial historical overview of the Troppo practice, the aims and objectives of the research, and a review of the relevant literatures underpinning the theoretical framework and methodologies to be applied. PART 2 first discerns and describes a pattern language that is observed to have emerged from a corpus of Darwin houses designed and built in the first decade of the Troppo practice, through the 1980s. Identifying visually distinctive patterns in plan or form for particular spatial functions as well as psychological spaces associated with particular sensory experiences, the thesis reconstructs the original contexts and design reasoning in and through which these patterns were first explored. Representative houses designed and built by each of Troppo’s regional offices in the past decade (up to 2014) are then examined in a series of five comprehensive case-studies. These map the relationships between these later houses and Troppo’s early residential commissions in Darwin. PART 3 then discusses the similarities and differences between the respective formal languages of these regionally dispersed cases and the early houses with respect to the broader theoretical foci and the framework of the study (pattern, contingency, responsive cohesion). The thesis concludes with a brief overview of the key findings of the study and their implications for contemporary architectural practice and education, and for further research in those sub-fields. The thesis shows how the design of Troppo’s houses reflects a process of cohesion between architects and owners around shared values and aspirations for delight in the spaces within houses and for experiencing close links with nature. It also reveals the critical importance of mentoring in the relationships between Harris and Welke, the regional directors and their clients. It also shows how the practice has negotiated conflict between its values and the realities of commercial practice in diverse regional offices with changing client expectations, code requirements and building costs.
Advisor: Radford, Antony Dennis
Scriver, Peter Carleton
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Architecture and Built Environment, 2017.
Keywords: design
pattern language
responsive design
Provenance: Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.
This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
DOI: 10.4225/55/5a20da21ea4e7
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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