Defying convention and playing with the principles of gravity and balance is second nature to Andrew Maynard. This quality is exemplified in the Hill House where architecture endeavours at being adventurous, unique and purposeful.
Text By K Parvathy Menon
Photographs Courtesy Andrew Maynard Architects
Aptly named ‘Hill House’, this family home extension in Melbourne, Australia is designed by Andrew Maynard Architects and showcases the architect’s brilliance in a unique contemporary design which is a response to solar accessibility within the house and its premises.
The clients wanted to expand their already existing home and transform it into a place where their children could grow in a healthy atmosphere. As the team started working on the project, they realised they didn’t want to repeat a previous mistake, that of extending from the rear of the house.
Instead they decided to build a completely new structure at the back of the property, thereby creating a backyard or common outdoor space sandwiched between the existing house and the new built mass. The site being north-facing, tapping the sunlight was the main objective, hence the new structure was conceived as a modern, ubiquitous box which would behave as a solar shade, blocking out the summer sun but at the same time letting in the winter sun.
Further dwelling on the box, responses to simple questions like, “Where could one lounge in the sun? May be a slope…Where would the children have something fun to do?”, gave the design team the perfect solution. A sloped structure, much like a knoll, where the children could roll, the lady could lounge, the pets could bask; the idea was mainly to create a connection between the built and the un-built.
The site has access by road from the north and a by-lane on its eastern periphery; but the new layout changed the orientation – now the main entry is from the eastern lane, the kitchen is the nodal zone and the old house is the kid’s space.
The new southern structure, facing the old structure is built similar to an artificial hill, on which sits a cantilevered unit at the second floor level, the box acting like a solar shade. At the bottom level, a large revolving glass door creates the perfect physical divide between the two built spaces, yet maintaining a visual connect through the green patch till the old house.
Most of the surfaces facing the open central space are glazed, hence these facilitate a visual interaction. The backyard is shrouded in privacy, much like a large courtyard; the space eases the conversations between the different volumes around it.
Within the new structure, the rooms are designed with an open plan and are screened by the foliage of the neighbour’s trees, giving a feel of being in the country rather than an urban set-up.
The interiors are draped in a wooden texture, radiating warmth, and the slit windows at ceiling level allow sunlight in abundance. A spiral staircase takes you to the upper level, where the bedrooms are housed in the cantilevered unit. Fully glazed windows give optimum shade and light as per the requisite, and also a glorious view of the sloping roofs of the neighbourhood. This window shade works as a ledge where one can lounge in sunlit glory, while children roll along the hilly slope.
It is a narrow site, and the small external façade gives an illusion of a small house; but as you step inside one meets the wonders of architectural strokes and a calming green inclined view. The design flits from being playful to being functional and beautiful; yet another masterpiece from Andrew Maynard Architects.