Notorious for making over-the-top design statements in overlooked spaces using ordinary stuff, architect Matthew Bird couldn’t help but do his experimental ‘thing’ before beginning alterations to a derelict, interwar bungalow situated in a suburban Melbourne street. Collaborating with artist Michelle Hamer, an architecture graduate who makes likeminded statements about life’s “small, in-between moments of apparent nothingness” (often in stunning hand-stitched tapestry), Bird decided that their joint installation should implement the visual vocabulary of the ornamental dome using material off-cuts from the laser-cutting industry.
“I had the luxury to not only dream but to actualise what it would be like to treat a domestic space as a dome,” says Bird of Studiobird, a small atelier that dips into several design disciplines. “The sacred space of a dome provides a richness of pattern and detail that is easily lost in contemporary housing.”
Bird notes that when so many are attempting to decrease their global footprint, an exploration of the bespoke through detailed manual design is an essential exercise. But he will admit to delighting in the contradictions inherent in handcrafting the off-cuts of computer-programmed industry into bright bits of interior decoration.
“The result of the reuse and repetition of familiar domestic and dome geometries throughout the house is the apparent dissolving of the walls, which causes some loss of the consciousness of domestic space,” Bird says of the temporary installation tagged Domed for its mining of movement and repeated revolution from the half-sphere. “The primarily black perforations are offset by the vivid yellows and blues of the sculptural chandeliers that are affixed to each light fitting.”
By placing patterned middle-of-floor rings in key spaces, Bird claims to have created ‘oculi’ that displace existing divisions within the house and encourage a physical leaning toward the centre. “The impetus towards the ‘oculus’ also creates a sense of rotation through the space. The ephemeral qualities of the repetition within each pattern are manifested through the chandeliers – the navel of each space.”
Bird says that such large-scale interventions invest suburbia with a new wonderment. We say that if such wit and wild sculpture can be salvaged from the bin, then renovators on a budget would do well to review their rubbish.