Two distinct identities find a common platform in this residential renovation design where the architects successfully connect the past and present, the old and new, and two families. The clever residential solution is sustainable and breaks the regional architectural stereotypes through its contemporary outlook.
Breaking away from the typical Australian homes that occupy wide footprints, Andrew Maynard Architects introduce to the relatively low roofed Richmond suburbs a three storied vertical wooden structure that maximises space and promotes sustainable living.
Aptly named ‘House House’ by the Australian design studio, this residential project is the repair and update of two adjoining homes owned by two generations of one family in Richmond, Melbourne.
This project has also recieved many awards like Victorian Architecture Awards 2013 and a High Commendation at World Architecture Festival 2013.
The architects point out, “The houses are separate homes within one common structure.” They feel that in Australia due to minimal topographical constraints, the residential designs go wide and low eating up the outdoor space. So Architect Andrew Maynard and his team intentionally designed a vertical structure, by stacking three levels, thereby maximising not only the interior spaces but also the small backyard shared between the two houses.
A previous extension that jutted out into the backyard was removed and instead a new contemporary addition in red cedar was inserted at 90 degrees to the existing Victorian terrace in the backend of the house, separated by a transparent gap from the original house.
Architect Andrew Maynard explains, “We deliberately created two separate forms. We respected the twin Victorian terraces and so these were repaired and restored. We did not extrude or copy the original as this only ends in an odd tumour, we believe.”
The most striking feature of ‘House house’, the cedar annex, has a child’s rendition of a house-shaped graphic painted black at street level to help keep a check on graffiti artists from tagging the wall. Having many windows in varying sizes, it opens the home out into the backyard.
The glass gap between the old and new structure serves two purposes – firstly, it acts as a light well and fills the rear portion of the home with abundant light; secondly the gap functions as an atrium which allows hot air to vent up and exit through louvers in the summer via the stack effect. This cavernous opening is an example of how energy efficiency is woven into volumes through natural design processes in the work of Andrew Maynard Architects.
All interior spaces in the new addition are open and multifaceted, a room for every personality in the extended family. Loose boundaries define the shared ground floor living room in the timber structure where outdoor activity spills inside through side portals.
Strategic use of mirrors on walls and cabinets makes the volumes seem larger; constant spatial interaction between the old and new at every level is also a notable feature.
A kitchen bench extends through the rear glass wall to be a part of the inbuilt barbecue on the ground floor, while on the first floor a mesh corridor becomes the connecting link.
The material palette mostly exposed and industrial in appeal is dominated by cedar and raw steel plate. The new form details graces the openings between structures and the thresholds between old and new.
The designers strongly believe that in all their buildings sustainability is not the narrative but a core responsibility, much in the same way that lighting and plumbing are. This thought is seen in every aspect of their design and structural detailing. The rear end facing the west has very few windows, thus limiting solar penetration and fenestrations elsewhere are double glazed to increase efficiency.
Automated louvers cover the glass skylight to block sunlight before it hits the glass, not after, and thus a ‘greenhouse effect’ is averted. Further, solar panels on the roof and insulation of the existing and new walls protect the house from the vagaries of weather.
Unique in approach, ‘House House’ defies tradition, and comes out strong in its completely different and contemporary avatar where every space is accounted for. Known for their energy efficient, sustainable and green designs, Andrew Maynard Architects have thus successfully conjoined the past and the present, the existing and the new and most importantly two homes that are distinct in their identities.
Text By K Parvathy Menon
Photographs Peter Bennetts