LAVA’s Debut Residence Heralds a Marked Departure for the Firm
Chris Bosse, co-founder of the trans-national Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (aka LAVA), is best known for ambitious master plans and large-scale biomorphic installations. But his latest project—750 square feet in Sydney’s heritage neighborhood of Paddington—forges a new direction: LAVA’s debut residence, the architect’s own.
It was a small and furry addition to the family, Cola the spaniel, that persuaded Bosse and his partner, Jen Kwok, to leave their beloved Foster + Partners flat for a terrace house—a regional mainstay somewhere between an apartment and a suburban abode. Built in the 19th century as workers’ cottages, they are typically 65 feet long and 13 wide. “The question was how to organize the space to feel less like a submarine,” Bosse explains.
Removing 1980’s-era Greek Revival pillars was an immediate improvement, creating a straight shot through the living and dining areas to the rear kitchen. One wall of the kitchen—glass doors screened in cedar slats—slides completely open to a side courtyard, funneling in the superlative New South Wales sunshine. “It’s the magic trick of the house,” says Bosse. Vertical cedar slats repeat along the staircase leading up to a den and two bedrooms, inviting shadow play.
Bosse had the globular fiberglass kitchen island fabricated at the same Shanghai factory where Zaha Hadid Architects interiors are made. Above it he placed a standard office light, “hacked” with the addition of plywood ribs, like the vertebrae of some lost dinosaur. There are also pieces by Karim Rashid, Ross Lovegrove, and David Trubridge—likeminded designers befriended on overseas trips—that are rife with the kind of curves and fractal geometries that are LAVA’s stock in trade.
Though the budget was tight, tracking down a hard-to-find Marc Newson stove practically paid for itself when the kitchen won the Smeg Tour competition. Given that success, would Bosse ever design a kitchen for production? “I’d love to,” he says. “I believe architecture works at all scales. You can design a tower with the same principles as a kitchen bench.” As for additional residential projects, well, there are four on the boards—including 88 more terrace houses, this time in Vietnam.