Yin & Yang

CODA Directors, Emma Williamson and Kieran Wong, were separately interviewed for last weekend’s Yin&Yang article in The West. The result is an insightful (and quite funny!) peak into CODA and what drives us in our work.

Registration success for Akira

We’re very proud of our staff member, Akira Monaghan, who this week passed her Architectural Registration exam! A fantastic achievement, particularly given that she’s been working on a few special projects this year!

Boonooloo Road Grouped Housing Project, a review

The Architect Magazine

Autumn/Winter 2017

Woods: Reece Currey

Nestled within a quiet cul-de-sac on the outer-suburban fringe of the Darling Scarp is the Boonooloo Road Grouped Housing Project. This recently completed affordable housing project designed by CODA Studio provides a timely example of infill housing which is affordable, flexible and thoughtful.

The surrounding suburban fabric of Kalamunda hosts a series of by-the-numbers infill developments, built in response to zoning changes in recent years. The Boonooloo Road Grouped Housing Project is easily distinguished from typical cookie-cutter infill developments through its innovative courtyard-based planning and deft use of modest materials to craft spaces in which to dwell and delight. The project makes a strong statement of the potential for well designed and flexible housing which provides an exemplar for future affordable housing developments in WA.

CODA Studio has previously undertaken research and practice exploring housing which is responsive, sustainable and meaningful, including built works such as the Building for Diversity project in Northbridge. CODA Studio’s expertise in housing types is clearly evident through the articulation of the courtyard typology in this project. The Boonooloo Road Grouped Housing Project showcases the possibilities for affordable housing guided by clarity of design and a focused architectural response to brief, site and housing type.

The project is composed of four dwellings, each offering slightly different iterations of a courtyard house design. Adjoining units to the north and south sides of the lot are twinned and share many similarities in planning. Connection between the internal courtyard and the living and sleeping spaces is maintained throughout the project, despite the differences in each dwelling’s planning. The consistent material and formal language of the elevations and sensitive internal detailing tie the project together as a whole. A unity of approach to form, material and detailing anchors the project, whilst the four dwellings subtly explore differing approaches to the planning of courtyard housing.

Dark painted timber boards sheath the white textured external walls, constructed of structurally insulated panels. The dark timber cladding provides a framing device which delineates the form along the external parapets and internal street. Interplay between the white external form of the building and the timber cladding defines the external expression of the project. Contrasting in colour, their interaction provides moments of architectonic play most notable at the boundary between the internal street and the courtyards of the southern units; it is here that the lightly-framed timber cladding dances away from the face of the building. Supported by a modest column, this move creates a triangular aperture, the interior of which is painted bright yellow. The movement marks the threshold – a striking example of how modest materials can be skilfully manipulated to create moments of pure delight.

At the gated entry to the courtyards of each of the southern dwellings, the timber boards traverse to the ground; the lightly-framed cladding separating from the primary form of the building to neatly frame the entry. The two southern courtyards form an expanded threshold between the ‘street’ and internal living spaces. Mediating between the social space of the internal street and sheltered spaces of the interior, the courtyards create a privacy buffer whilst allowing the internal spaces to maintain a strong connection to the exterior. Courtyards located within each dwelling provide a north aspect to the attached main living areas, with the courtyards of the twinned units to the south being particularly generous in size. From these courtyards the garages are accessible, containing large rainwater tanks which further enhance the sustainable credentials of the project. Lining the boundary to the courtyards is a bespoke lapped timber fence imbued with charm, which will undoubtedly lead to good neighbourly relations.

Accessed from the courtyard, the brightly painted teal front door of unit 4 leads into the bright, open main living area. Immediately visible is a high window, allowing soft light from the south to enter as the ceiling is carved away to form a raking bulkhead. Negative details at the junctions of the intersecting planes further define the element creating a crafted, atmospheric moment and establishing a resonant presence within the space. Throughout the project, modest materials and a restrained palette are utilised in a thoughtful manner to enhance the internal spaces through a series of well-crafted details. The white-painted brick of the main living area  provides texture to the walls, further augmented by the occasional protruding clinker brick. The interior window reveals are lined with plywood, obscuring the edge of the aluminium window frames and providing a robust yet articulate detail. Plywood skirting boards also provide a clean and resilient edge throughout the home. White paint mutes the natural finish of the skirting in the main living area, harmonising with the painted brick walls.

In each unit the central courtyard forms a pivot around which the spatial planning is generated. The primary living area maintains a strong connection to the courtyard via floor-to-ceiling glazing, shaded by the overhanging roof. A circulation spine leading to the bedrooms and bathrooms clings to the edge of the courtyard. Within this space, generous glazing ensures ample light, ventilation and visual connection between interior and exterior. Windows along the spine afford views across the courtyard to the playful movement of the yellow triangular aperture of the timber cladding, and on towards the internal street and the main living space. The sense of connection between all of these elements is present throughout, transmitted though the lens of the internal courtyard. Separating the bedrooms and bathrooms from the courtyard, the circulation spines of Units 3 and 4 are generous enough in size to be adaptable to the needs of residents.

CODA Studio’s expertise in developing housing typologies which are innovative and flexible is further evident in the provision of capped-off services in the second living space. By infilling a dividing wall, a four bedroom house converts into a three bedroom dwelling with an attached 1 x 1 unit. This inbuilt flexibility allows the housing in the project to respond to various potential living arrangements, with the opportunity for occupancy of the site to be built over time. Diversification of dwelling types within the project in the future has the potential to further develop spatial living arrangements, in which the internal courtyard will remain the hinge. From the open, communal spaces of the internal street and courtyards, to the sheltered, restful spaces of the sleeping quarters, the spatial planning within the project creates gradients of privacy, allowing occupants to dwell as they desire throughout the day.

The Boonooloo Road Grouped Housing Project’s thoughtful planning, and modest, yet sensitively articulated spaces are the result of an approach to affordable housing design which is both innovative and articulate. The project constitutes a considered exploration of the courtyard typology and the possibilities for infill housing which is flexible, sustainable and delightful.

School treats kids as adults

The architecture of a new campus inspires learning

The West Australian

Saturday 20th May, 2017

Words: William Yeoman

You mightn’t think so sometimes, but the old saying still stands: treat kids like adults and they’ll behave like adults. This philosophy is evident in every aspect of CODA Studio and Broderick Architects’ unique joint venture, the new Bunbury Catholic College Mercy Campus in Australind.

Bunbury Catholic College Mercy Campus is just one of the many outstanding projects featured in this year’s WA Architecture Awards’ Educational category. Built by Smith Constructions, the $20 million co-educational college for Year 7  – 12 students aims to demonstrate, according to architects’ award citation, ‘that it’s possible to build educational spaces that achieve both the civic presence they deserve, and provide intimate student-scaled experiences.’

With features such as ‘dynamic internal streets’ which have been created to provide ‘ample opportunity to pause and connect’ and ‘moments of delight as brick walls graciously curve and whimsical patterns are created through a deliberate hit and miss pattern’ the architects believe the project ‘reveals the positive impact of joyful and considered school design on both the children and community that it serves.’

Eamon Broderick, of West Leederville-based Broderick Architects, says his firm specialises in schools; Fremantle-based CODA Studio specialises in urban design and interiors. ‘But we did everything together, all the way through,’ he says. ‘You don’t often get a chance to build a new school. More often, you’re adding to an existing school. So this was an exciting opportunity.’

He says that as a first build, not just of a new school but a new community, they wanted to design something that would last for ever. ‘Well, 100 years at least,’ he laughs. Thus the exteriors use ‘masonry’ brick, concrete but also ply – ‘as the primary material, giving permanence and a civic heart to the school.’ There are also sustainability elements such as light-reflecting windows and a bushland rehabilitation agreement.

Indeed, the idea of a civic building was central to the design. ‘As with other schools, the assumption was the broader community would engage with and borrow the spaces,’ Broderick says. ‘We also wanted something that was urban, not suburban, big but not spread out. The campus design is quite compact, mostly two storeys and with everything close together.

The result is a campus that encourages cross-disciplinary interaction. ‘So the science teacher might easily run into the English teacher and share ideas,’ Broderick says. And the students? ‘The exteriors are quite formal but the interiors are colourful and playful,’ he says.

‘For example, the library is known as the Learning Commons. It combines a traditional library, a research facility and a canteen. Kids can make their own tea or coffee, grab something to eat and take their computer or a book and really enjoy the space.’

Even the lecture theatre opens out into the foyer. ‘So if it’s cold or rainy outside you can come in here, eat your lunch and enjoy a performance by the school band or a short film or whatever. It’s quite civilised, it’s about treating kids as adults.’

He says the students have responded ‘very happily’ to the environment. ‘I guess good architecture is an example of how planning can influence behaviour.’ Which is also another example of good education and one that aligns with Bunbury Catholic College’s ‘commitment to the whole person’.

A week of awards for the Karratha Superclinic!

We are thrilled with the news that our Superclinic project in Karratha has received a commendation at last night’s Dulux Colour Awards! This facility provides allied health services for the town’s Indigenous population, fly-in-fly-out workers and families living remotely.

We used colour to strengthen the building’s connection with the surrounding landscape and to create an atmosphere of warmth and safety. Externally, the dramatic form of the hills is expressed in the fascia and decorative treatment of the tilt-up concrete facade. Internally, colour-blocking is used to temper the medical experience and act as an important wayfinding tool once inside the building.

This project provides an important piece of amenity for the community, which the local Indigenous people now refer to as their ‘Rainbow Home!’

This award caps of a successful week for the Superclinic. On Saturday, at a ceremony in Broome, the project received three MBA Bankwest Building Excellence Awards in the following categories: best commercial industrial building $6.5m – $20m; innovative use of building materials; and, excellence in recycling. 

Emma Williamson at PRAXIS 2017

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At this year’s Australian Institute of Architects’ Conference, Emma Williamson joined Huw Turner and Penny Collins, John Wardle and Neil Durbach on stage to provide an 8 minutes insight into practice. This is the transcript of her speech:


Fortuitously the invitation to speak today has coincided with our practice turning 20 and a kind of yearlong “mid-life crisis” that Kieran and I have been having as we look back on what has passed and try to make a plan for the next 20!

I am not going to talk about any projects in particular this morning but I do want to discuss the conscious way in which we have crafted our practice.  To give some context a series of images will run in the background – so hopefully there will be something for everyone!  These represent some of the project work of the last decade and have, for the most part, been captured by Peter Bennetts, a dear friend and collaborator who we have very much enjoyed working with over this time.

Collaboration has always been a big part of the way we wanted to work.  We set up CODA as a multidisciplinary practice straight out of uni, with 2 other couples.  We felt certain we could tackle any design challenge through the coming together of our shared skills, our passion for design, our belief we could make a difference and our youthful enthusiasm.  It was great fun and created a strong foundation from which CODA the architecture practice could then evolve and grow.

We have built important and ongoing relationships. We have been supported by mentors, we have collaborated with artists, developed products with suppliers, collaborated with other architects, and importantly with our clients.  We have experienced enormous professional and personal generosity in building up our practice and we have, in turn, looked out for ways in which we can be generous within our community.

In roughly 5 year bands, the story of our practice has evolved into a series of chapters or versions:

Chapter 1 / CODA 1.0         the naïve multi-disciplinary practice, projects for people we knew, no money, no staff and lots of energy

Chapter 2 / CODA 2.0         the alts and ads, houses, no money, 4 staff, 2 kids, not enough sleep, lots of energy

Chapter 3 / CODA 3.0         the shift from residential toward larger work, no money, 12 staff, 3 kids, not enough sleep, feeling quite tired

Chapter 4 / CODA 4.0         public projects, education projects as well as urban design and masterplanning, still no money, up to 25 staff, 3 kids,  –  did I mention that I am quite tired.

From the beginning we have talked things up.

With nothing to show for ourselves we built a story that was bigger than we were.  We have had a pretty consistent “fake-it-til-you make-it” approach that has propelled us to work toward the space we have somewhat falsely declared we are in!

Early on we struggled with the idea of narrative within the studio.  With little in the way of practice history or a portfolio of work –  and with a desire to open things up rather than demonstrate a single hand – we found ourselves not actually to be great directors because we weren’t decisive enough! And over time we came to realise that people need direction.

We also struggled to reassure our staff that each step or change was part of a grand plan, and we didn’t properly anticipate the need to communicate a practice vision with strength and clarity to our staff. In the early days, there were real challenges around the idea of architecture embracing more invisible work, such as research and urban design, as well as the idea of creating more structure within the studio to allow us to grow.

With the benefit of hindsight these resistors helped us to articulate our position and create yet another story for the studio to grow into.

We came up with 4 words:

To be useful            and do work that could benefit many rather than a few

To be joyful             in the way that we work with one another but also in the spaces that we create

To be generous      in our interactions with others and in seeking out generosity in the way we design space

To be stealthy        in using our skills in ways that can have influence but may not be clearly identifiable as architecture

These aspirations helped to frame the way we work together and where we see opportunities to make an impact.  They galvanised the studio and allowed for many voices and the many valid and valued ways of being an architect to coexist.

In such a visual profession it has been hard to communicate the complexity and importance of some of our more invisible work, even within our studio.  The work cannot be summed up with beautiful photographs or even a few well constructed sentences. This work will remain largely invisible but the outcomes have the potential to affect many more people than a single building – no matter what the scale.

Collaboration is an ambitious goal – and it’s harder to pull off than you might think when you really scrutinise it. Kieran and I have learned through a process of trial and error that collaboration is not a form of socialism; in fact, this makes people nervous and they can’t do their best work when they are operating without boundaries.

The easy form of collaboration is where you have the genius idea and everyone works together to pull it off.  But true collaboration allows for many voices to come together to influence a project and make it richer. You need to have the capacity to put your ego aside.  You need to be ok with moving into terrain where there are potentially more questions than answers – where the problem explodes and becomes even bigger before you can reach a solution.

A successful collaboration needs leadership. The capacity to guide these voices and move the project forward. The capacity to recognise a good idea – even when it’s not yours – and the ability to make connections and join dots so that multiple ideas can come to influence the final outcome.  Our practice has evolved out of a dialogue in which we are not experts but we are deeply curious.  We are not afraid to ask questions in place of giving answers and we have learned to listen.

We use all the typical tools of an architecture studio – we sketch, we draw, we make models and we talk.  Importantly, we create a story for each project. It needs to be robust enough to change hands and have different “ghost-writers” and it needs to be strong enough to survive the hand of a ruthless editor – that by cost, or any other reason for that matter, sees fit to trim the fat off a scheme.

With the benefit of 20 years of practice we can no longer claim the space of the fresh faced, enthusiastic young turks that think they can do anything. We are mid-career. And we have a portfolio of work to show for our efforts.  The images are still moments in time and behind each of these is a unique and different story that was created through the collective efforts of our studio and collaborators.

Thank you

#codais20: celebrating our staff

As part of our 20th Anniversary, we’ve created a series of short movies that celebrate the various elements of our business over the past two decades. Projects, office dogs, craft activities, lunches we’ve eaten and cocktails we’ve drunk – no aspect of our office culture has been left unturned! First up is a flash through the 56 talented people who have worked with us over this time. Enjoy!

‘Chasing the Sky Launches’ in Sydney



Last Thursday night, Emma Williamson was in Sydney to celebrate the launch of Maven Publishing‘s new work, ‘Chasing the Sky: 20 Stories of Women in Architecture.’ Emma is profiled in the book, alongside 19 other inspiring women practitioners. Copies can be purchased here.


All’s WELL in Workplace

In an article in the Property section of today’s West, our recently completed office fit-out for Charter Hall was recognised as the first business in WA to receive accreditation according to the internationally recognised WELL Building Standard. Launched in 2013, the standard provides businesses and communities with a method  to improve the comprehensive health of their employees. The standard is the world’s first certification focused towards mental health and well-being, and takes into account aspects of health including nutrition, fitness and mood. A recent article in ArchDaily provides further insight into the Standard and details some ambitious overseas projects that are embracing its principles in their design.

The West Australian

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Words: Claire Tyrell


Communal eating spaces, office retreats and a focus on mindfulness are among the attributes of a commercial building standard taking hold in Perth.

The WELL building standard, introduced to Australia two years ago, is described as the next frontier in building standards after the environmental NABERS rating.

Colliers International sustainability manager Patrick Jeannerat, WA’s first accredited WELL professional, said the US standard grew from a need to emphasise wellness in the workplace.

A building’s air, lighting and water quality, nutrition and exercise opportunities and thermal and acoustic comfort are measures of WELL accreditation.

Mr Jeannerat said the WELL standard added a new dimension into the into the commercial property space. ‘Until now we are talking about landlords and tenants. This brings a third instance into the game, which is the actual staff and employees – the individuals within the space,’ he said.

Take up of the new standard has been higher in Eastern States offices than in Perth, but Mr Jeannerat said Perth would catch up as more businesses cottoned on to the idea.

Charter Hall is one of the first Perth-based businesses to apply for WELL accreditation, for its 225 St Georges Tce space.

The company’s executive of people, brand and community, Natalie Devlin, said Charter Hall was an early adopter of the WELL system. ‘We looked at our cultural values and when we relocated to Sydney we went to one of the purest forms of activity-based working. As part of that strategy, I thought a lot about the wellbeing of our people.’

Ms Devlin said when the WELL accreditation came to Australia in 2015, Charter Hall was already half way there.

She said since implementing the WELL standards, the property group had increased its employee engagement and performance.