OR VIEW ALL
A Sense of the familial and the suburban informs every corner of this intelligent addition in the northern Melbourne suburb of Thornbury. James StaUghton, of Staughton Architects, has known the clients for many years and this project has been a deeply personal collaboration from its inception.
"Friendship made this happen," says James. "The budget was strict and the clients would not normally have called in an architect, had we
not known each other for such a long time." Indeed, this is not the first creative partnership between the parties, as James has played in a band with one of the clients, writing, performing and producing original songs for several years. The clients' young family dictated that a useable backyard space was
retained, but a roomy, openly connected volume across two levels means that the most is made of limited confines. The house numbers in the street jump inexplicably from number 89 next door to number 93 (the clients' address) so the architect created a narrative of deconstruction and reconstruction for the mythical number 91, albeit in a stylised sense. "We began our investigations into this otherwise typical rear extension with the idea that number 91 had been abducted, dismembered and dumped in the backyard of its would-be neighbour at number 93," says James. Despite the grisly nature of the concept, the resultant addition is bright, fun and functional. Rather than simply creating regular boxes, the architect has utilised an asymmetrical machete-slice design to imbue the extension with a greater feeling of light and space, as well as adding intriguing, angular elements to the architecture. Given the limitations of the budget it was decided to specify modest, functional fixtures and fittings, and to maximise the impact of creative planning and design innovation. Maintaining the roof pitch consistent with the existing adjoining properties not only allowed for increased privacy and diminished impact on the neighbours, but also permitted the addition of an upstairs bedroom within the bounds of the maximum building envelope as allowed under town planning regulations. A side door acts as a surrogate front door, in keeping with most houses in the street. A high-pressure sodium light invokes warm memories of kids playipg under a streetlight as the adults entertain around the barbecue. On the east side of the structure, the light grips a canopy that delineates the old from the new. As you enter the house, the existing bedroom and lounge are to the left and the new kitchen and living areas are to the right. The kitchen sits under the upstairs bedroom and opens to the new living area where the ceiling vaults to the full volume of the hipped roof form.
A signature of the project is the unusual pergola/verandah constructed at the rear. The back wall is virtually uninterrupted glazing,
which takes full advantage of the northern exposure. The pergola is a steel structure screened with shade cloth that pitches upward, away from the house, and salutes the midday sun. The builder remarked that
it was more sculpture than construction. This inventive thinking ushers maximum winter solar penetration all the way to the rear of the ground floor volume, but provides shelter from the heat of the day when the sun is higher in summer. In both cases, the deck acts as an
additional, useful room. "We carefully tested the height of the sun in winter and summer in rdation to the project. The pergola and deck sit
at an angle to the rest of the project, capitalising on the invisibility of a pergola or deck to the maximum allowable building envdope," notes the architect. "The pergola dement creates a diversity of views through
and around the north-facing window wall, controls solar access and creates a dynamic external living space." The taut shade cloth, fitted by a maritime sail maker, provides both
functional coverage for the rear decking and summons a notion of children's play equipment. The project was completed around the same time as soccer's World Cup, and the clients' young son made excellent use of the pergola walls for a makeshift goal. The varying shades of green in the backyard, where fresh turf has been laid and a number of tall natives stand, are reflected in the shade cloth and are drawn into the living area on the hip above the itchen. The clients initially requested a bench to enclose the kitchen, but James encouraged an open, L-shaped kitchen that allows for a rectangular table to sit north-south, maximising the living area, or be moved east-west into the living area for entertaining, and thus maximising
kitchen preparation space and separation.
The new upstairs bedroom is attic-style with no connecting door. The area is defined by its reverse orientation to the south. To make the
most of both light and privacy, the southern wall of the bedroom is made of an opaque polycarbonate with a functional, opening window in the bottom left comer, closest to the head of the bed. The window overlooks the corrugated iron roof of the original structure and allows glimpses of the suburban roofscape beyond. The architect also allowed
for a built-in study desk in the north-west comer of the bedroom, at the foot of a small window that encourages the mind to wander into the backyard for inspiration or meditation.
A new bathroom, toilet and laundry have been neatly concealed between the kitchen and the old house. Although it is a tight fit, there is room for a bath, and the continuing theme of mixed pale greens gives the space a bright, cool fed. The external western wall is finished in a silver-grey stain and the exposed edges of the "slice" design appear orange and bloody. The east wall, where the surrogate entrance is located, is clad in cement sheeting. All this gives the structure a ghostly glow in full moonlight, an understated presence in the day and a sturdy exterior for the growing children to knock about.
The partnership of architect and client has been fruitful and satisfying on this project, as it has been on their musical explorations in the
past. That sense of successful collaboration is evident in every facet of this clever, budget-conscious design. Indeed, James and the client
are shortly rdeasing a CD of their music that draws its inspiration from this project. Its evocative title is taken from the soft, wdcoming glow that hangs over the side door. Keep an eye out in music stores for High Pressure Sodium.
Thornbury House Image Gallery
click image below for more information.