The bold, monolithic designs of Australian architecture studio Edition Office have been brought to life in an unexpected place—Hawthorn, one of the most affluent suburbs in Melbourne that’s better known for Victorian architecture than contemporary design.
The recently completed home—dubbed the Hawthorn House—is an award-winning residence comprising two large concrete shells. It was created for a couple who asked Edition Office directors Kim Bridgland and Aaron Roberts to apply the design sensibilities they would normally use for rural landscapes to a more suburban context.
"Unlike our work in more rural or remote locations, the site did not have amazing views of distant topography or horizons," says Roberts. "What it did have, however, were incredible mature established trees which allowed us to consider a more internal and intimate experience."
Looking inwards at the site, the architects sought to create a sanctuary that highlight the three mature trees on site and frame views of a lush courtyard garden. In contrast to the soft greenery, the home is sheathed and supported by board-formed concrete, a material suggested by the client, who drew on his background in construction during the highly collaborative design process.
"We felt also that the nature of concrete would allow us to create a consistent and encompassing architectural device to amplify particular aspects of the site and how the clients wished to live," notes Roberts, who adds that the house was created as a "forever home" that can adapt to the family of four’s changing needs over time.
"The nature of concrete allowed for a sense of permanence, a sense of weight, like an anchor," says Roberts, "while the formal qualities employed meant internally the structure has a lightness, or athleticism which defies any sense that the concrete could be overbearing."
Cast on site, the concrete was formed with rough-hewn Oregon timber boards for a textured appearance. The timber framework was recycled into fencing around the perimeter of the site and will develop a gray patina over time to match the concrete structures.
The architects divided the 7,319-square-foot home into two boxy volumes, one in front of the other, and connected with a walkway in the shared courtyard garden. The reasoning, according to Edition Office, was to allow for greater flexibility in the ground-floor living spaces and to separate the parents’ bedroom from the children’s bedrooms to encourage independence.
Although the home’s two concrete pavilions appear window-less from afar, the facade around the ground floor peels back to reveal arched cutouts framing continuous walls of glass that bring natural light and garden views into the living areas. "The arched concrete shrouds evolved as a method of structurally supporting the house with its own skin; designed to be understood as protective cloak rather than as signifiers of support," explain the architects.
To bring natural light into the the sleeping quarters on the upper floor without compromising privacy, the architects have inserted landscaped light wells on the east and west sides of both buildings to bring in light, views of greenery and fresh air.
As a "forever home," the homeowners also made the prudent choice of investing in energy-efficient technologies to minimize the home’s energy footprint. The roof hides a large photovoltaic array in addition to a solar pool heating system, while the concrete floors are equipped with hydronic heating. Passive solar principles also informed the home’s design and orientation to optimize properties of thermal mass, natural light, and natural ventilation.
"Broadly the house allows for respite from a busy lifestyle," say the architects, who look forward to seeing how the home and garden evolves over time. "It is a sanctuary. It employs a calming quality. It is slow, immovable yet flexible in how its spaces can be used. As the garden matures, the experiential qualities of the house, this sense of a timeless sanctuary will deepen."
Builder/ General Contractor: Flux Construction
Structural Engineer: David Farrar
Landscape Design Company: Eckersley Garden Architecture
Lighting Design/Interior Design/Cabinetry Design: Edition Office
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