Architect’s Statement: The central idea behind the project really comes from making the most of the site’s unique location, which backs onto a public reserve and laneway. This unique opportunity allowed the house to be reoriented so that the new living spaces opened to this space at the rear of the block and also provided views back to the city of Melbourne. The new living spaces are raised half a level from the existing house to maximise the views, allow for some privacy from the rear public reserve and also allow for car parking below accessed from the rear lane. The compact extension is organised around a central courtyard located between the old and the new which also then allows for eastern and northern light into the rear extension. The split level also provides some volume and a small high level splayed window back to the north infuses controlled northern light into the kitchen below.
This was the second project that we have done for this client. When our business started 10 years ago we designed and documented an extension to the clients previous terrace house in inner Melbourne which actually never got built. It was great that they came back to us to undertake another project and it is really satisfying that this one was successfully completed. We had a great relationship with the clients and they were really involved throughout the process yet trusted our judgement and listened to our advice. The other key ingredient to the success of this project was a fantastic builder Michael Filippone from Filippone Constructions.
The clients wanted a robust house that worked on a practical level for their young family as well as in relation to the site and its opportunities. Opening to the park and city views seemed the obvious solution as well as introducing good light and ventilation through the courtyard arrangement and strategic operable windows. They also wanted a sense of fun and were not scared to inject some colour into the house – in fact we were probably more restrained when it came to colour…….perhaps they got us across the line on this decision! Our clients wanted to transform the existing dark house into a series of light filled contemporary spaces to live everyday family life in – not a precious show piece.
All of the work that we undertake is derived from a considered response to the existing context and the clients’ individual brief with a real focus on good connections between the inside and the outside.
Joinery and detailed threshold spaces between inside and outside are really important in all our projects. This project specifically features a plywood clad seat/reveal to provide shading for the north facing window and simultaneously, create a usable space externally.
Internally, the integrated stair/ joinery spine has dual purpose. Firstly, it connects the lower level kitchen and the upper level spaces, where the spine mediates the scale and becomes the tv and fireplace joinery. Secondly, the lower stair treads that angle outwards act as an extended casual seating area to the kitchen area.
We find clients are increasingly receptive to the use of bold colours, which we have learnt, when used, should be embraced and really go for it – no half measures! In this instance, a bright green painted brick splashback and matching joinery finish provides an accent to that rear wall to contrast against the otherwise neutral material palette.
During the course of the project, there was constant discussion about the use of a Japanese technique of timber charring, known as ‘shou sugi ban’ for the external timber cladding. We even used a blow torch and made some samples to test the effect of this on timber. We were excited at the result which was a beautiful oiled midnight finish. Whilst this unfortunately didn’t get across the line (the external timber has a charcoal stained finish) on this project it’s definitely on the radar down the track! I guess the exploration and experimentation of materiality on every project forms an important part of the design process. We are constantly learning and experimenting about the different properties of various materials and are excited when perhaps a more standard and even cheap material is used in a different exciting way that perhaps it wasn’t intended for.