5 Circle Place
Fitzroy North
VIC, 3068
T 03 9116 4021
E architects(%20at%20)phooey.com.au

Projects: Houses

Circle Place Studio

Emma Young and Peter Ho, the husband and-wife team behind Phooey Architects, already had plans for a home office for their practice before the Covid pandemic. “We didn’t want to work in the city anymore,” says Emma. “Our kids were growing up so fast, and we wanted to be available to them.” They already had a building permit for the renovation of their Fitzroy North house and the construction of a 35-square-metre office in their small inner-urban backyard, so in early 2020 when lockdowns meant they suddenly needed to work from home, they decided to prioritise the studio part of the project.
Peter and Emma’s plan was for a building that was resilient and as large as possible – without overwhelming the backyard or being intrusive to their neighbours – so that it could have many possible uses during its long lifetime.
Set against the western and northern boundaries of the 159-square-metre block, the studio replaces an old laundry shed and an overshadowed patch of garden. A neighbour’s two-storey wall to the north precluded northern sun access, but the couple say that more diffuse southern light works better for an office environment anyway; in this direction, a whole bank of double-glazed windows looks across the courtyard towards the house.
Featuring a large U-shaped built-in desk and a small kitchenette, the studio is constructed from recycled brick and has a green roof. It was owner-built and constructed by Peter, and he’s loved the experience. “I am used to designing and specifying materials for client projects, but it’s a whole different challenge to craft the materials myself. We’ve used recycled and waste materials wherever possible – for example, the floor is a concrete slab covered with a layer of old gym mats for extra insulation, then chipboard, and finally carpet upcycled from a previous project.”
Peter also fabricated the aluminium frames for the windows and lined them on the inside with plywood as a thermal break. He describes this as “a DIY AliClad framing system”. There is recycled polyester insulation in the walls and ceiling and Styrofoam XPS under the slab, and the thermal performance of the building is excellent: the couple say they rarely need to use the reverse-cycle air conditioner that was relocated from the main house.
The office is set 600 millimetres below the courtyard level, minimising overshadowing of this precious outdoor living space and allowing the planted roof to provide a lovely green outlook from the house. “It was really important to me to have the green roof,” says Emma. “Essentially, we raised up the permeable surface and garden space that was there before the build. It provides habitat and air and stormwater filtering, and helps mitigate the urban heat island effect.”
The build was completed in early 2021. “It’s everything I wanted and more,” Emma says. “Working here gives us an extra couple of hours in our day – it’s liberating. I can be around the family and our pets, and even cook dinner while finishing off work for a deadline. I love it every day.” Peter agrees. “It’s been really lovely to build this and then see Emma and the kids live and work in it through the trials of Covid.”

Cumming, A (2022), ‘Home Work’ (Backyard Builds Special), Sanctuary, Issue 59, pp 36-37.