The Right Balance of Security
High fences and closed shutters may suggest a well-secured and protected home, but these features often do the exact opposite. “Once someone jumps the fence, there’s little or no surveillance, except for perhaps the security systems once inside, that’s if they’re activated,” says architect Reno Rizzo, director of Inarc Architects, who suggests that passive surveillance is often sidestepped. “A high hedge just allows an intruder to go undetected,” he adds.
Inarc Architects often includes electronic surveillance equipment in homes, but many include passive surveillance, such as elevating the front door a few steps above ground level. Often, there’s a living area or even a kitchen located at the front of a house, with a large picture window looking over the streetscape. For two bluestone townhouses in Fitzroy, the architects designed steel picket-like contemporary fences with low planting at the front of the garden bed. Grading the landscaped garden not only diffused the morning light but also allowed the owners to keep an eye out on their own property, as well as their neighbours. “This development included intercom devices, both voice and image. There’s also access to the home via a rear laneway and garage which means people aren’t aware of the comings and goings of the owners,” says Rizzo.
Photo credit: Peter Clarke
Balancing floor plans for optimum security
As well as elevating floor plans slightly above ground level, Inarc Architects keeps the spaces within the home relatively fluid and open plan. “We rarely locate every living space at the rear of a house, which allows for continual surveillance,” says Rizzo. “It’s always about creating a certain balance between street and home, allowing strategic glimpses into a place, while still maintaining privacy,” he says.
Photo credit: Peter Clarke
However, Inarc Architects often includes infrared detectors in the homes it designs, with the latest devices immediately sending out warnings to the owners’ iPhone. Once triggered, the viewer can immediately see whether or not just one sensor has been triggered, or if there have been a series. “Often, one can mean a false alarm, while a series of sensors would indicate an intruder is moving through the house,” says Rizzo who has on occasion, installed external cameras and other devices for clients looking for greater security.
Architect James Staughton, director of Workshop Architecture, sees the issue of security as being twofold. “There’s the sense you create in the architecture that makes people feel secure in their homes. And then there’s the perceived security that people ‘read’ as they pass by,” says Staughton, who sees the way a front fence is constructed as being paramount in delivering both outcomes.
Photo credit: John Gollings
Passive surveillance through a picket fence
For a house in South Yarra, Workshop Architecture created a timber picket fence, slightly higher than the traditional picket one would find outside a traditional Victorian terrace. For this fence, the architects designed two layers of pickets, giving the owners a sense of security. “You can still glimpse over the fence from both sides, as well as seeing between the slithers in the fence,” says Staughton.
Photo credit: Shannon Mcgrath
For Staughton’s own home, located on a corner site in Fitzroy, he perforated the top of the roller door hard on the street to allow for glimpses of the street from the back deck and even from the kitchen. When the roller door is fully opened, there are unimpeded views and when it’s fully closed there’s passive surveillance. For another project, a house with two separate artist studios in Coburg, Staughton designed sections of steel to enclose a front garden which otherwise would have been completely exposed to the street.
Photo credit: James Staughton
For Staughton, the feeling of protection is as important as the protection devices themselves. “The last thing you want people to feel is that they’re living in a fortress, completely hemmed in,” he adds.
Inarc Architects can be contacted on 8626 0700
Workshop Architecture can be contacted on 9326 8322
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.