Bold and Brave – Adventurous Architecture
Those contemplating a new home may be inspired by television shows that appear to push architectural boundaries. But when it comes to commissioning a new home, the word ‘caution’ rather than ‘adventurous’ is at the forefront of their minds.
However, fortunately there are some clients who want to be taken on a ‘journey’ and explore what architecture can deliver, without ‘pushing themselves over a cliff’. “It certainly helps when a practice reaches maturity and clients have that trust and that level of confidence,” says architect Nick Travers, a director of Techne Architecture + Interior Design, whose practice was established 16 years ago.
Echoing adventurous with views from the tree house in Ivanhoe
Techne Architecture could have easily delivered an orthogonal glass box for a spectacular verdant site in Ivanhoe, overlooking the Yarra River. However, it was because the sloping site was so magical that the practice felt they should offer considerably more. Designed for a blended family with five children, the brief for this multi-level home, with a landfall of between three and four metres, was relatively open and non-prescriptive, apart from the number of bedrooms required. “We wanted the house to feel nestled into the site, making the most of the treetops,” says Travers.
The Ivanhoe house is clad in dark grey steel, with the façade orientated to the river finished in unstained blackbutt. Fixed timber awnings diffuse the northern and western light, with a timber-battened wall at ground level enclosing the garage. At the end of a steep driveway, the garage, along with a mudroom, laundry and cool room, can be found. There are also the children’s bedrooms. On the middle level is the open plan kitchen and living area, with the lounge delineated by a raised plinth and a distinctive black steel fireplace. The black steel kitchen flue also echoes the shape of the fireplace. “We wanted to accentuate the views over the reserve,” says Travers, pointing out the cranked-shaped ‘ribbon’ of windows along one entire façade. And on the top floor, with a sense of being in a tree house, is the main bedroom suite, with its sitting/study area, walk-in-dressing room and ensuite bathroom.
One of the more adventurous design features in the Ivanhoe house is the ‘laneway’ effect that pierces the multi-level home, with glazed ‘bridges’ linking the various spaces. “We always enjoy bringing the indoors into the core of a house,” says Travers, pointing out the black steel feature wall, together with the generous glazing at either end of the passage. “We always respond to the topography which suggests a number of key ‘moves’. The form is quite sculptural,” he adds.
From Collingwood warehouse to adventurous black charred timber in Northcote
Ola Studio also had its client’s confidence when designing a new two-storey house in Northcote. Designed for a creative couple, one being a sculptor and the other a stylist, the brief to the architects was to create a sense of a warehouse. “Our clients were living in a warehouse in Collingwood. They wanted a warehouse feel this time, but with a garden. Not surprisingly, their brief was something quite sculptural,” says architect Phil Snowdon, director the practice.
After living in the Collingwood warehouse for almost 12 years, the owners were understandably keen to be surrounded by a lush garden. “They still wanted large spaces and high ceilings, but they wanted this place to be quite adventurous, almost ‘abstract’,” says Snowdon.
Clad in black steel, with a ‘veil’ of black aluminium battens, the Northcote house ‘speaks’ to the many pitched roof homes in the leafy street. With the block orientated east west, the architects set the house back from the side boundary to increase the northern aspect. The swimming pool in the rear garden also benefits from the afternoon sun.
The Northcote house slowly reveals itself past the black steel garage door. At ground level is the kitchen, together with the open plan dining and lounge area, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors framing the garden. A sharp black steel balustrade cuts a swathe into the ground floor, giving the interior a strong industrial warehouse feel. And upstairs are three bedrooms, including the main bedroom suite and bathrooms, together with a second living area that leads to a ‘caged’ terrace.
“Our clients are design savvy so it wasn’t difficult getting them on board with a more adventurous design. But we still modelled everything so that they could walk through each space in their minds,” says Snowdon, who, after a number of years in practice, attracts clients looking for adventurous design. “We’re always looking for clients who want more than a conventional home. But we’re now finding that type of client is now actively seeking us out,” he adds.
Techne Architecture + Interior Design can be contacted on 9600 0222
Ola Studio can be reached on 9942 0812
About the Author: Stephen Crafti
Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990’s and is a regular contributor to DesignBUILD. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of writing about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.