An unusual ‘sunken courtyard’ house has been completed by Swiss-Australian studio architecture GESTALTEN. The house is located in Elsternwick, an inner city suburb of Melbourne. The double story building -- with one level sunken below the ground -- was erected on a tiny site of 10 x 15 meters. It only rises one story above ground level to fit in with planning controls in the otherwise low-lying neighborhood.
Given the local council’s extensive town planning regulations, the brief, and the site circumstances, the architect’s idea is based on the unusual kind of sunken courtyard, a below ground construction originally developed in China and closely related to the tradition of ancient cave dwellings of four thousand years ago.
Letting in Light
In the new house, every room, with windows from floor to ceiling, faces the sunken courtyard, a bold creation that connects space and brings light into the home.
"The contemporary building is integrated into the surroundings, moving between preservation and re-formation by respecting the existing settings and built forms. Structure, form and materialization are in a reciprocal dialogue between context and architectural object"
Living in a Small Space
Maintaining a balance of durability, utility and aesthetic, the new house provides appropriate living in a small space. The ground floor is designed as an open floor plan combining the function of cooking and dining with living, the below ground level contains bedrooms, en-suite, laundry and bathroom.
Nature and Architecture
The sunken courtyard is conceived as another room where the amalgamation of external and internal space creates a unique room atmosphere, enabling interaction with nature and architecture.
Exceptional Architectural Response
We know that council planning regulations can be restrictive. Sometimes limiting creativity. But when a project like this comes along you realize there's no excuses. Even very restrictive planning controls can lead to exceptional, unique architectural responses.