Brisbane’s Four-Room Cottage by Owen and Vokes and Peters took home top honours at the 2013 Think Brick Awards.

The awards – established in 2005 – recognise designs that represent the evolution of clay brick and concrete masonry in design. The Four-Room Cottage won this year’s Horbury Hunt Award, Think Brick’s top prize.

“At the Four-Room Cottage in Brisbane a carefully conceived extension connects the existing timber worker’s cottage with the garden,” the jury said. “Brick is the primary expression for this landscape of spaces that includes a galley kitchen and an intimate fireside court. The use of the brick marks new from old, physically grounding the house and celebrating the garden space.”

owen and vokes Four Room Cottage

The total addition is only five square meters, making it possible to preserve the open space of the garden.

The project saw the renovation of a traditional four room timber and tin worker’s cottage located in Kelvin Grove in Brisbane’s inner north.

The original house, with a verandah surrounding the southwestern and southeastern edges and two further rooms that had been added to the rear of the building under a shed, featured a generous open space running alongside the house – something that is unusual in that area.

owen and vokes Four Room Cottage

A completely new arrangement of indoor and outdoor spaces was created.

“It is the architect’s job to reveal observations about place and human experience,” architect Stuart Vokes said of the project. “That is what lifts architectural thought above building economics. Many wouldn’t understand why so little seems to have been gained in this redesign, in the sense of square metres.”

“The house hasn’t been lifted and built in underneath. Whole new wings of rooms have not been added. In fact, in terms of new building that enlarges the footprint of the original, the quantitative gain is very low indeed. But the experiential reward of every surface, frame and detail has been accounted for. The articulations, connections, associations and vistas are exhilarating and endlessly attractive to the inhabitants.”

owen and vokes Four Room Cottage

The kitchen was opened to a small brick-fireplace courtyard.

The new floor plan capitalizes on the existing bathrooms and kitchen, minimizing the need to re-plumb other areas of the house. However, a completely new arrangement of indoor and outdoor spaces was created through the redesign.

The bathroom, toilet and laundry were lined up along the southeastern verandah, and the kitchen now opens to a small brick fireplace courtyard, which steps up to a garden terrace built with firm brick edges and corner-making concrete detailing.

owen and vokes Four Room Cottage

In the kitchen, bricks are used both in walls and floors.

The complete addition measures only five square metres, making it possible to preserve the open space of the garden while achieving an increased sense of spaciousness and liveability inside the house.

Bricks were chosen for the project due to their longevity, durability and sustainability. They require almost no maintenance over time and can create highly energy efficient buildings, reducing environmental impacts.