Lightweight living

Second prize – Large-scale interventions

Lightweightliving ​

By: Joshua Duncan & Chaz Flint

Building Up, Not Out | A Viable Solution to Perth’s Suburban Sprawl. 

Having already sprawled further than most major international cities, Perth is predicted to grow from 1.5 million to 4.2 million in population by the mid 2050’s. To meet this rapid growth, the entire city and its infrastructure will need to double in a relatively short period of time. Suburban sprawl and low density housing growth on the outskirts of Perth is already an acknowledged problem. Continuing this development trend to cater for the expected growth in the years to come is not a sustainable option. 

 Many jobs remain based in the CBD, leaving thousands forced to make long commutes to the CBD from the increasingly outer suburbs. Richard Weller discusses several ideas for how to deal with the expected population growth in his book, Boomtown 2050. However, The City Above The City competition puts forward a new idea worthy of investigation; building above Perth’s existing urban structures.

 We have selected a case study building in Perth for testing a timber housing superstructure that has the potential to be easily applied elsewhere - both in Perth and around the world. The chosen building is a 1970’s brutalist train station a short distance from the CBD and well connected via the adjacent train line. Its generous concrete and brick structure is more than likely able to accommodate a timber structured addition. 

The housing proposal is based on a modular LVL construction system that maximises repetition in layout, cutting down construction costs and ensuring an efficient planning organization that facilitates optimal natural lighting conditions for all apartments. A single lineal apartment type with access from the South and full glazing to the North affords each apartment equal access to unobstructed winter sun light and full cross ventilation. 

Apartment modules are stacked and arranged to create an apartment block to best fit the available roof plot, as well as meet local codes for egress and escape. Three of these blocks are spaced along the case study building to ensure all three Northern facades are exposed to winter mid-day sunlight; the spacing of these blocks defined by winter solstice sun reaching the bottom apartments unobstructed.

External circulation is the most cost effective option for affordable housing, however, it can compromise a dwelling’s privacy, with rooms adjacent to circulation routes in affordable housing schemes often having permanently drawn curtains. To deal with this issue we have created an intermediate outdoor space between the southern circulation route and the apartments. As well as housing a small personal laundry unit, it is an ideal place to store a bike, an A/C unit and hang washing. It is separated from the public circulation by lockable sliding timber screens, adding another layer of privacy and security.

As LVL is not a suitable material for use in outdoor applications, a protective layer is required. An operable translucent polycarbonate skin performs this role, protecting the timber structure from inclement weather and harsh UV light at the same time as allowing us to see the timber frame beyond and the warm colours of the wood. 

The circulation space, between the operable skin and the apartments,  performs as a greenhouse - a separate climatic zone - which makes the semi-public spaces comfortable throughout the year. In summer the operable skin will be opened, allowing full ventilation throughout. In winter, the screens can be more closed, protecting the timber from the rain at the same time as warming the space. More than just circulation, the space becomes a setting that encourages social communities within the housing complex.

The Designers: ​Joshua Duncan & Chaz Flint​

Designers of Lightweight Living - Joshua Duncan & Chaz Flint 

BASIC Architects are a Perth (AUS) based design team comprised of Chaz Flint and Joshua Duncan. Both are Masters of Architecture students at the University of Western Australia.

In short, BASIC are proponents of responsible architecture - environmentally, economically and aesthetically. Our work often involves dwellings, such as a small house for a sponsored family in Uttah Pradesh (2015), India, as well as a rural house for the manager of a horse stud and his family in the Southwest of Western Australia (2015, ongoing).

We are also advocates of strong coffee and late afternoon rounds of golf.​

Jury's comments

Stefan Winter:

A clear skeleton solution, not directly placed on top of the existing building stock but using a in between substructure to distribute loads to the main loadbearing parts of the exisitng structure. The open space between the old an new part of the building is a nice area for common activities, but will need some special measures to ensure fire safety.


Mike Kane:

A richly diverse and inspiring approach to the many aspects of modern urban sustainable living. The embedded environmental solutions added a comprehensive approach to city living.  

City Above the City architecture competition

Plan B : City Above the City architecture competition 

Metsä Wood challenged architects and students around the world to push the boundaries of modern wood building design in the urban environment. Entrants from 40 countries created their Plan B to urbanisation using wood (Kerto® LVL – laminated veneer lumber) as the main material. The task was to design a wooden extension to an existing urban building. The entries were designed to 69 cities worldwide.

The winners


Tammelan Kruunu by Lisa Voigtländer (Germany) and SungBok Song (Korea)



Lightweight Living by Joshua Duncan & Chaz Flint​


Plug-In by Jari Lonka, Francesco Allaix & Lilja Mustila


Aboveall by Giuseppe De Marinis Gallo​ & ​​Gianluca Gnisci​​​


The Green Intervention by Minjae Kim &​​ Kwang Ja Oh​


Dear Landlord by Nile Greenberg​


Vertical Lilong by Luis Fco. Romero Martinez & Sandra Gomez Alba​


Colliding Lines and Lives by Sinan Gunay & Nurhayat Oz​​


Dachkiez,Village On The Roof​ by Sigurd Larsen, Simon Jendreizig, Vanessa Panagiotopoulou, Marlene Kjeldsen, Guillermo Fernandez Villar & Pedro Campos Altozano​

Explore the designs