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Category Archives For: Architecture

The Return of the Post War Home

Tribe Studio

Tribe Studio – 50’s BV Extension, Courtyard

An insight from the Head of Create – Julian Faelli

There have been a number of great projects recently that celebrate the much criticised Post War ‘Brick Vanilla’. As locations that were formally ‘suburbia’ have started to become desirable and gentrified (eg. Thornbury and Preston) a number of keen eyes are beginning to celebrate and work with 50’s post war homes.

The rapid uptake of the family car after the war spurred housing growth on the pastoral land between Melbourne’s radial train lines.

The new subdivisions were bigger than Melbourne’s early working class haunts of Collingwood and Carlton. Typically the suburbs created in the 50’s and 60’s had blocks of 500 – 800sqm. These new areas offered the start of the suburban dream for a expanding middle class.

Speculative builders like AV Jennings cut their teeth on these housing estates in a similar fashion to their contemporaries on the fringes today. The wartime bungalow was overtaken by the brick veneer. They were cheap and fast to construct at the time, despite this, the structures have held up well in many cases. The materials used at the time had something to do with it – house frames built in ‘green’ hardwood have only got stronger as the years have gone by.

Now they offer accommodation for the next generation of young and growing families. More often than not – professional couples with kids who still want to be close to the city and lifestyle locations.

These post war homes are a great base for an extension to meet changing family needs.

It’s becoming desirable to renovate instead of heading further a field to the more established suburbs, like Surrey Hills, Hawthorn and Ascot Vale where there is traditionally larger housing stock.

Architects such as WoodWoodWard and Tribe Studio in Sydney have developed a unique approach – where the extension is a separate pavilion, providing varied spaces and courtyards in place of the grassed backyard.

Tribe Studio

Tribe Studio – 50’s BV Extension, Frontyard



Forever House – WoodWoodWard Architecture


Copenhagen VS Melbourne

This holiday edition we take you away from Melbourne to Denmark’s capital city Copenhagen. Why? It’s the world’s most liveable city, according to leading design and current affairs magazine Monocle. Melbourne was featured as the No.2 city in the world, and while this is great, we cannot rest on our laurels!

The Monocle report ranks cities according to safety/crime, international connectivity, climate/sunshine, quality of architecture, public transport, tolerance, environmental issues, access to nature, urban design, business conditions, proactive policy and medical care. Secret Agent decided to head to Copenhagen this Christmas to see what all the fuss is about! Spearheaded by Paul Osborne and Julian Faelli, the focus of the trip was to document some details of the city, and find in those details some lessons to be learnt. We hope you enjoy this special insight and wish you a super year ahead for 2014.

The Secret Agent Report

Democratic Cities

SOLid Panel
Last week Julian was invited to speak at a panel discussion run by the SOL:id team at RMIT. The evening was led by Michael Trudgeon of Crowd Productions.

Also on the diverse panel;
Eduardo Velasquez + Angelica Rojas (Flinders Street Station people’s choice winner (Architecture)
Scott Mitchell – Open Object (Industrial Designer)
Eli Giannini – MGS Architects (Architecture/Planning)
Michel Hogan – Brand Analyst (Branding)
Tim Longhurst – Key Message (Futurist)

The panel was asked to unpack the following;

How are our city spaces designed and planned? what is the role of the individual in the urbanisation process?  how do grassroots movements impact upon our cities and the cities of the future? what are the implications of open information exchange and open source design?  is everyone a designer? how can design professions adapt in this context?

The wide range of viewpoints both on the panel and in the audience contributed to a robust discussion on the role of the designer in the future of our cities.
It was put forward that perhaps cities succeed and thrive organically – and quite often our best design efforts are where we don’t design a built outcome.

The Secret Agent Report – Planning

The planning process has an impact on every construction idea, and it is important understand any changes to the zones and rules. Further to our Planning Bulletin last week, we chat to Glossop Town Planning to go a little deeper into what the new changes mean to Inner Melbourne real estate, deciphering the new zones; General Residential, Residential Growth and Neighbourhood Residential. Since 1997, Glossop has specialised in residential and commercial development projects, including medium and high rise housing projects.

Paul also gives an overview of the market in general in the lead up to the festive season, with his view of the media’s ‘Boom or Bust’ and ‘Bubble’ attitudes.

Next month we take a closer look at the commercial side of things, so please stay tuned.

Click HERE or below to download the latest report!

The Secret Agent Report October 2013


TEDx Sydney: Joost Bakker’s Straw House

At TEDx Sydney recently I was lucky enough to witness presentations and performances from some incredible forward thinkers and doers. Among lawyers, activists, mathematicians, archivists and political scientists was Joost Bakker; a Dutch born creative operating out of Melbourne. I say creative because Joost’s range of skills are hard to pin down with one word. With a beginning in floristry, he is now designing structures, as well as concepts for ‘closed loop’ sustainable restaurants.

No one needs to be reminded of the devastating affects of bushfire in this country. Sitting at the Sydney Opera House surrounded by water on a cool day, it was hard to imagine the intensity of CSIRO’s fire test on one of Joost’s projects… until he showed us the fire test carried out on his straw house prototype. Reaching external temperatures of 1000 degrees celsius after 30 minutes of ‘major fire front’ testing, the internal temperature peaked at only 35. This classified the straw building as a bunker.

Magnesium oxide board was used to clad the straw house, and the 38 metre square structure was erected in only 7 days. The test was carried out to get the go ahead for a home being built By Joost in the Victorian Otways, an area prone to bushfire.

You can read more about the test, and watch the video here.

From Lauren Bezzina, Secret Agent Communications. 

Spanish Design

From Create By Secret Agent’s head designer, Julian Faelli

We have started to see a string of interesting architecture and design projects come out of Spain in the recent months. This trend is in spite of the countries economic woes, with Spain now battling a youth unemployment rate of 56.5%.

The struggling economy has pushed young architects and designers to make the best of a bad situation. With a rich architectural history exemplified in the work of Santiago Calatrava and Enric Miralles’s expressive buildings, there is fertile ground and a bold point of departure for today’s architects.

Niu Architectura

Niu Architectura is one such firm, their recent Calvià Running Track is an exercise in restrained yet exciting design. Simple materials used well – it is exciting to see such thorough it’s use of transparency and volume. The dramatic cantilevers and sunken spaces make this humble sports pavilion a real gem.

CSLS Arquitectes

The Girder House by CSLS Arquitectes is a whimsical and light approach to residential accommodation. A bright, white fitout provides a brilliant backdrop for life within the building. The small footprint is negotiated with a hidden kitchen and foldaway bed. It’s a approach that works well with the warm spanish climate, a climate not dissimilar to ours in Australia.

Johnston street has always been the traditional home of Spanish culture in Melbourne, and I wonder if it’s any coincidence AJAR has recently opened a furniture store on Johnston – primarily importing the Spanish Arlex brand. Designed and produced in Barcelona the quality is on par with the established Italian brands. At a competitive price point due to the depressed Euro, AJAR look like they are onto a winner. 


Project Images © José Hevia

Small Spaces – Big Ideas

New (and old) approaches to living in the inner city.

Kent Larson architect and director of MIT’s House_n research group presented at TED last year. He outlined his group’s design ideas to approach the worlds inner city population explosion, of which Melbourne is a participant.

The House_n groups proposals question the nature of what we build and how we occupy our spaces. The current glut of high rise apartment stock is at odds with the strong demand for other typologies of small housing near the city. This suggests that the current apartments offer isn’t attractive to people looking to enter the market.

Kent argues that the ideal model for small aparment living (view from 11 minutes in) is a open loft ‘shell’ containing basic building services, that the tenant can occupy and fit out according to their needs.

His lab is investigating sensor networks that will inform a adaptive and responsive architecture inside the apartment shell. Walls, partitions, joinery and lighting that move and alter. Accommodating radically different uses of the space throughout the week.One can’t help but think that this is a particularly ‘west coast’, overtly technical approach to the problem. A couple of Aussie architects have recently completed studio apartment fitouts with our lifestyle in mind. Architecture Architecture turned their hand to a fitout in the Cairo Apartments, located in the heart of Fitzroy. The 1930’s era 24sqm space is made neat and functional with a well designed joinery unit.




Last years Potts Point apartment fitout by Anthony Gill Architects, looks at another studio apartment under 40sqm. It manages to provide accommodation for young family, small child and their library within the tiny footprint.




In part it’s a return to old ways – both these projects inhabit apartment shells that were built in the past. These small studios with outlook, light, amenity and character look to be the way of the future as well.




Introducing Julian Faelli to the Secret Agent Team. Julian comes from a strong background in architecture, industrial design and project management. He is the head of our design and construction division: Create by Secret Agent.

Create By Secret Agent welcomes Julian Faelli


Introducing Create – Welcome Julian

Create is an entire new section of Secret Agent.  Spearheaded by Julian Faelli, the idea of Create is to transform property into spaces that adapt to the modern age.

Create can be utilised by existing clients of our buying services,  or even as a stand alone service.

Julian has a strong background in architecture,  as well as industrial design and project management.

Please excuse us while we update our website to include more details about Create services, and feel free to contact us at any time to discuss your requirements or ideas.

We look forward to helping our clients with beautiful design,  unlocking value,  project management and above all;  helping create the ideal space for you – to enable you to live life how you want to.