The "shed" is perhaps the most enduring symbol of suburban Australia and of its values and lifestyle. The shed is a symbol of the DIY culture which has spawned a multitude of renovation-based "reality shows", all fuelling and fuelled by a property market going through a seemingly endless boom cycle.
Unfortunately, the boom cycle has not brought any greater understanding of the potential of considered design, a desire to risk alternative strategies, or a desire to consume a lesser amount but of greater quality. Rather, a new type - the McMansion - has now taken hold among the noveau-riche in the Australian suburbs. This super-large domestic building, with a footprint that stretches to the perimeter of its plot, is characterized by voluminous interior space of unclear use while full airconditioning and double-garages prevail. A level of cultural despair is completed by the glowing testimonials of McMansion-owners who exhibit pride at their offensive - and given current environmental concerns - unsustainable living patterns.
This collaboration - between an artist, architectural practice and furniture designer - explored the formal possibilities of an older form - the Australian garden shed - in questioning the scale, materiality and politics of the new suburbs.
An existing shed (from a prominent shed manufacturer who offers custom-designed "sheds to order") is deconstructed and manipulated to provide for three alternate structures using the same material and templates derived from the original envelope. These new "sheds" are custom designed to serve differing spatial purposes and "functional" requirements. Thus, by modifying the requirements of the structures, three objects are possible with the materials from one. The freer social and spatial conditions offered by these new sheds forms a critique of the fortress-mentality that accompanies the McMansion type.
As a collaborative exercise (with Simon Ancher and Jessica Ball), the three sheds provide a built manifestation of the interests of three participants who share a common goal but use different means. In using the platform created by the art world to present three furniture pieces that comment upon a prevailing architectural and urban issue, the circuit is completes.
Photography by Richard Eastwood