A Block in a Hard Place, by Melbourne residential architect – Darren Naftal

Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 in Blog, How to/ Tips | No Comments

It’s here in my hands, the culmination of 15 years experience practicing as a Melbourne residential architect, and I cannot be prouder. My book, or as I call it my baby: A Block in a Hard Place, has now made its way out into the real world.

A Block in a Hard Place

The idea for this book was born from what I have learnt from working with my clients, which I then took a step further, to address what we have all seen happening here in the last decade: the skyrocketing cost of housing.

In the 11 years running DN Architecture, I had several clients come to me having purchased a property that had issues compromising what they wanted to do, which they weren’t aware of prior. Nor should they have been, they aren’t architects. It was overcoming these problems such as sites that were very narrow, steep, or heritage listed etc, that my best projects emerged. I love a challenge, and these problems pushed me to think differently in order to solve them, resulting in unique, beautiful and yet practical homes without any compromise. Such is my love for these projects that I now specialise in just creating ‘dream homes on difficult blocks’.

Last year, one Saturday morning whilst looking through the property section in the newspaper, an idea dawned upon me. I was specifically looking for blocks that had these difficulties that I love working with, just to enjoy imagining what I could do with them. I noticed that the blocks with really obvious issues, like a building blocking its access to direct sunlight, in a noisy location such as near a train line, or odd shaped like a bent triangle, were selling for less, sometimes up to 25% less than other properties of the same size in the same area. I thought to myself: this is a way I could help people buck the trend of having to buy further afield, worsening our urban sprawl and time stuck in traffic, by helping my clients find these blocks so they can live closer to where they work and play. I would then create designs for them, that would overcome the constraints, so you would not even know they were there to begin with. And so the idea for my book was born, I could teach people looking to buy a block, build or renovate, what to look out for, if and how these problems can be overcome, so they could find a difficult block to buy for themselves. Or perhaps someone may have found a block in an area they’ve been keen on, and know it has its issues, or bought one only to find out later. Finally there is a guidebook to help you create your dream home on a difficult block.

The types of difficulties that exist are all covered in the book. Here is a list of the chapter headings, so you have an idea of what that includes:

Introduction: Why a Block in a hard place?

1: Laying The Foundations – Basic design and other considerations

2: Everybody Needs Good Neighbours – Dealing with overlooking and overshadowing

3: The Skinny on Small and Narrow Blocks – Working with smaller blocks, including subdividing

4: The Old & The Beautiful – Restoring and renovating heritage listed homes

5: A Slippery Slope – Working with steep sites

6: Keep It Down Please! – Noise control

7: The Odd One Out – Working with oddly shaped blocks

8: What Lies Beneath? – Easements and other site conditions

9: When North is Hard to Find – North facing the street

10: Where to From Here?

Thank you to everyone who follows this blog, for taking an interest in my passion – architecture. And thank you to those who have supported me through this huge undertaking: writing this book. As I sit here looking at it on my desk I find it hard to believe it is real… As a child all I wanted to do was create houses out of Lego, now many years later, still all I want to do is create houses, real houses.

It is now available to buy here: www.ablockinahardplace.com.au  The website shows images inside the book. Also available is a free chapter, for a further taste of what it’s all about. I’d be most grateful if you could please spread the word, share this on Facebook, or wherever you can, to help me make people’s dream homes a possibility. Remember my saying: “Not all blocks were created equal”… that’s now a good thing.

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