This is a house and studio for a painter and his family. It’s called Humbug. 

Peter Adsett, a New Zealand born painter based in Australia, and his family bought a plot of land in Shoreham on the Mornington Peninsula. Peter doesn’t paint pictures of things. We could say, like Karl Varnedoe did of similar work, that he paints “pictures of nothing”. He is less interested in what we see, than how we see. He is interested in the capacity of a painting to produce something that is neither as flat as an empty canvas nor as fully spatial as the room it hangs in. Instead, his work often seems to hover between the reality of a painted surface and the illusion of space. Our job was to respond to his practice and design a house together. 

We developed a building which moves between painting and architecture. The striped canvas across the façade that invokes Daniel Buren’s work of the 1970s connects to the history of painting, for example, but to call it painting is Humbug. It is a seat and balustrade. The painted columns, battens, and cladding behind those seats are simply articulated components everyday building systems, yet to think of them only in terms of construction is also Humbug. They borrow heavily from conventions in painting by using dark and light, or figure and ground, to affect our perception of depth.  

So the house we built is an invitation to reflect on painting as much as architecture, and how we see both. It’s a monument to the dialogue between between them. Or maybe more to the wonderful but slippery perceptions, even deceptions, that entangle us in them: the Humbug.