STUDIO BAM

Sheds of Australia: Retrofitting the Backyard Battler

According to a report by Grand View Research, the global garden sheds market size was valued at USD 2.3 billion in 2020, and it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% from 2021 to 2028. The iconic backyard shed is a staple of the Australian landscape. Long a symbol of the self-reliance and practicality of the Aussie spirit, sheds have become so ubiquitous in our backyards as to be taken for granted. But, let's be honest, they are crap and are completely unsuitable for the Australian climate. However, an opportunity exists to retrofit these metal shacks to become energy efficient, comfortable, and even beautiful with a little effort.

Ubiquitous

The quintessential Aussie backyard shed, thin, lightweight and stinking hot in the summer. The shed is a prime example of industrial construction, sold and transported as flat-pack DIY kits made up of mass-produced components. The shed is a quick, easy, cheap and cheerful option for storage or working, but it has so much more to offer. The benefits of sheds are that they are light, easy to construct and have structural support.

The drawback is that they are flimsy and are a hotbox in summer and a fridge in winter. I don't mind the look of a shed, it reminds me of the country, but with a little tweaking with openings and support, they could be so much better.  The greatest benefit of the shed is that it provides shelter to build.

Constructing on-site is always at the mercy of the elements, but if a shed shell already exists, work can continue on the inside. This scenario radically changes typical architectural staging, which works from floor to roof to walls to weather seal. With a lightweight shed exterior, the interior is already weatherproof and is ready for extra structure, insulation and interior finishes.

Potential

Its true potential is as an incubator for architecture. While the Aussie battler shed sits sweltering in all its glory, a new building starts to assemble inside. As the inner architecture grows it adds material to stabilise and support the flimsy metal surfaces, soon taking over from the thin aluminium frame and using the corrugated steel as a new skin, piercing in places to reach light or snatch views of next doors swimming pool. In this sense, the backyard battler reminds me of a miniature version of Ernst Neufert’s 1943 House Building Machine, whose lightweight scaffold moved along a building providing shelter for construction, minus the links to Albert Speer.

The best outcome would be for the retrofit to exist as sharable information, perhaps a self-help manual for adapting and improving existing sheds with easily accessible materials. Or even an online configurator to “pimp my shed’ which outputs instructions rather than a Bunnings product. A new architecture emerges, born from the country grit of the shed, but now fancy enough that a writer can pose in it in Dezeen. This is the shed's true destiny, this is what it truly wants, and strewth, this is what it will get.