Architects: O'Connor and Houle Architecture
Location: Melbourne VIC, Australia
Area: 200.0 sqm
Photographs: Earl Carter
From the architect. This house was designed for ourselves and our twins and is located on the ocean side of the Mornington Peninsula. Our brief was to create a simple house to nurture a love of nature within our children, and instill within them a desire to live slowly. With our work, as with this project, we are very interested in a phenomenological approach to design. One philosophical characteristic that binds all of the work of our practice is the importance placed on the full range of human and sensory experiences. The changing play of light on surfaces, the breezes that move through and around buildings, the touch and smell of walls and gardens, the sound of spaces, all play a part in the reception of architecture as it is lived in, and is an important determinant of our well being.
This project was an exciting opportunity to test these ideas out and to cater to our often unreasonable obsession for great craftsmanship, often not possible within the context of a typical project. An embrace of the japanese utilitarian aesthetic also, whereby the space need not be too large, and not be distracted by frivolous design elements. Horizontal timber lining boards speak of warmth, craftsmanship, nature and the horizon beyond. Lastly, to achieve an architectural result that is delightful, uplifting, robust and functional, but is also one that transcends the momentary fashions for particular forms and appearances, so that it will be equally as inspiring a long time from now.
The plan of the house is simple. It is essentially composed of two wings forming a L- Shape, with two zones at either ends, one for children and one for adults, met in the middle by a kitchen / living zone adjoining a large deck and north facing garden. The house and its adjacent studio/guest house offers privacy through its siting, away from the road and the deliberate retention of trees. A long ribbed wall in the living area was designed as a structural element to hold up the highlight window above and in turn the roof of the house. It in turns has become the house of several objects found on the beach and beyond.
The layout of the children bedrooms is such that they have the capacity to have friends stay over and the ability to be together or completely apart via several sliding doors/screens that can be fully concealed within wall cavities or fully closed. The house offers a means to contemplate and be at one with nature and to revive and heighten the senses often dulled out by the demands of modern life.
We hold utmost respect for the natural environment and hold a particular interest in the relationship of nature and architecture. With this house, we have sought a design solution that enriches our understanding of our native landscape, and allows a greater connection between interior and exterior complementing each other. In this project, landscape, birdlife and fauna is not peripheral but integral to the architecture. The process of retaining as many tea trees as was possible was a highly bureaucratic one, given the recent bushfire regulations and the prescriptive demands of the CFA to clear treed blocks.
Because of the extensive amount of timber in the house, the building was built by Ross O’Brien a craftsman carpenter. This was done slowly and methodically over a period of two years. The structural engineering was designed by Mark Hodkinson The native plant selection was done and planted by Fiona Brockhoff.
Following passive design principles were applied: beneficial solar orientation, sun-shading, performance glazing, cross ventilation, fresh air infiltration, natural light, thermal mass, weather sealing, thermal insulation and the minimisation of energy consumption.
Following active design principles were applied: involving rainwater harvesting, solar water heating, photovoltaic power generation, thermal chimney and heat purging mechanisms. Sustainable materials and fittings including low toxicity finishes, durable and low embedded energy materials, recycled timbers, low energy appliances and fixtures. Low maintenance and low water use landscaping.