Located in a quiet eastern suburb of Melbourne, Australia, this large home for an extended family challenges our vision for what suburban housing should look and feel like.
Typical Suburban Site
This site is a 705 m2 rectangular block of land with its short side and street frontage facing north — a common size and shape for suburban sites. The orientation of the site makes it a challenge to maximise natural light, but the architects have overcome this challenge.
"Our brief from client was to design a large five-bedroom dwelling for his extended family, which includes himself, his wife, his parents and planned newborns. Interested in architectural solutions, the client also had specific requests for large open spaces (both inside and outside), maximised access to northern sunlight, stylish fittings and fixtures as well as good value for money. It was an ambitious project with comparable tight budget." — Alta Architecture
Central Courtyard Solution
The orientation of the site meant the house would overshadow its own backyard — not an ideal situation at all. The architects recognised the importance of the backyard as the main outdoor space, but in order to bring more light into the home, the introduced a sizeable courtyard in the middle of the house. This would create a central outdoor activity space that feeds back into the interior for connection/view/light/ventilation, and add another north facing aspect to the house, increasing natural light.
To achieve the client’s large open space vision, a typical living/dining/kitchen arrangement overlooks the backyard. This generous 90 m2 open-plan space creates an easy connection between inside and outside. The living space in particular is connected to both the central courtyard and the backyard. This blurs the boundary of inside and outside and leaves the living area soaking with natural light.
All services area such as bathrooms, laundry and prep kitchen, were placed at the western side of the block, utilising the service lane that runs north south and also acting a protective buffer against western sun.
"In terms of the image of the project, it was our intention to be a good citizen in the neighbourhood and at the same time to achieve some level of attitude and character in its design. More importantly, the dwelling's street facade needs to be the hero of the project." — Alta Architecture
"After studying the neighbouring built forms of pitched and gabled roofs, a triangulated overall massing was chosen to link it to its context. The 19th century German architect Gottfried Semper described in his writing the idea of primitive hut as being the origin for vernacular architecture; and the fact that such simple triangular hut form is common in most cultures around the world, may explain why people with different cultural background are all likely to find such form appealing – it is stable, and provides a strong sense of shelter and homeliness; and people are also likely to associate it with the abstraction of the domestic cottages of their own specific cultures." — Alta Architecture
The external materials are typical of the suburbs — The earthiness of the brickwork, the stripping of the timber cladding, the shininess of the metal sheets, and the creamy white paint. The project reinterprets these typical elements and presents them in a modern way.