Concrete Arches Shroud a Minimalist Forever Home in a Melbourne Suburb

Filled with light and views of greenery, two exquisitely crafted concrete pavilions form an award-winning home that ages elegantly over time.
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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.

The Hawthorn House was recently crowned a winner in the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2019 Victorian Architecture awards.

"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."

The three existing mature trees on the property shaped the design of the house, which frames views of the leafy canopy on the upper floor.

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.

"In terms of the texture, we wanted to achieve a materiality that had a primitive quality about it," explain the architects. "Part ruin, part contemporary, an ageless tactility."

"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." 

"In this context we sought to simultaneously provide a high degree of sanctuary while maintaining transparency and the ability to read and experience the entire site throughout the ground floor," explains Edition Office. "This required balancing the weight and textural intensity of the concrete shrouds with an attention to detailing and a sense of interior warmth and lightness."

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.

A warm timber palette, rounded surfaces (note the rounded corners in the custom double-glazed walls), and a rich variety of textures lend warmth to the minimalist concrete home.

The living space, which enjoys garden views from multiple directions, is furnished with a Tiki Sofa by Fogia, Limited Edition December floor lamp by New Tendency, a pair of Bolo armchairs by Fogia, and a Sentrum side table by Woud.

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.

Blackbutt veneer cabinetry inject warmth into the kitchen and match the blackbutt ceiling planks seen throughout. Granite and concrete countertops create visual breaks in the timber surfaces.

Edition Office designed the custom dining table that's flanked by Molloy dining chairs by Adam Goodrum for Nau. The outdoor dining table in the courtyard is Kos by Tribu.

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.

A north-facing courtyard and garden sits between the two concrete pavilions.

The smaller pavilion in the rear contains a lounge, hidden laundry, and a full bath. The space is furnished with Legia armchairs by Baxter, a Bowl side table by Fogia, and an Attolos lamp by Marz design.

The smaller concrete pavilion in the rear of the site opens up to a pool on the far west side. "The garden surrounds the house on all sides and will over time encompass the pool area as the vines spread across the rough timber boundary walls," add the architects.

Oregon timber used to form the concrete was recycled as fencing around the perimeter and will develop a silvery gray patina over time.

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.

For privacy, the upper floors use lightwells instead of conventional windows to pull in natural light and fresh air.

A timber-lined study on the upper floor of the parents' suite overlooks a private outdoor courtyard open to the sky and tree canopy.

Textures are beautifully layered in the upstairs master suite with the stone tile in the bathroom on the left, blackbutt paneling in the study, and exposed concrete seen in the outdoor courtyard. The artwork is ‘Lake Mungo' by Greg Wood behind the Triangolo chair by Frama.

A Falper Quattro Zero bath from Rogerseller overlooks views of greenery in the bathroom.

A private garden behind walls of glass sits at the foot of the bed in the master suite.

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.

In addition to a radiant floor heating system, a Cheminees Philippe Radiante fireplace keeps the home toasty and warm. The artwork pictured is ‘Commonalities’ by Kate Tucker.

"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."

Hawthorn House ground floor plan

Hawthorn House first floor plan

Hawthorn House section

Hawthorn House south elevation

Hawthorn House north elevation

Hawthorn House east elevation

Related Reading: A Historic Melbourne Home Is Respectfully Modernized For a Young Family

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Edition Office / @editionoffice

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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