Design TeamKaren Alcock, Clare McAllister, Maria Danos, Brett Seakins, Jack Tu
Text description provided by the architects. The Main Ridge house sits within an established working vineyard located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The brief was for a comfortable 4 bedroom family home with a visual connection to the vines and which provided an area suitable for entertaining the international guests who visit our clients’ winery.
We are ‘urban architects’, used to working with the constraints of existing built form and planning regulations and creating architecture in residual urban space. We consider our work to be contextual, an architectural response to the urban ‘found’ conditions. In this case the context for the house was abstract; the no site had no clear ‘hero’ views with which to orientate the building. The best northern solar orientation faces away from the vines, while to the west an existing artificial cutting separated the house site from the vines and the view to the east was dominated by a large and visually ‘messy’ strawberry farm. However there were a series of lovely, albeit modest aspects: to the north a view beneath trees full of dappled light and a promise of what lies beyond; to the south a gentle rolling grassy slope terminating at the vines; The architecture retains the memory of these existing landscape vistas and uses them as an ordering device – externally with the form and placement of the new building and internally with the orientation of the inside spaces. On approach the house is hidden by two 20 metre long angled weathered ‘Coreten’ steel walls. On entering through a gap between the walls – reminiscent of the original cutting - the house and site reveal themselves.
The residence is comprised of pavilions enclosing three sides of a sheltered, north facing courtyard. The courtyard design maximises northern light to the interior and creates zones within the home: one for more private family living and another that can also cater for entertaining guests. A sculptured limed plywood ceiling provides a horizontal ribbon linking the public and private areas of the main pavilion, and contributes visual ‘drama’ while still maintaining a comfortable residential scale. A pod-like timber ‘drum’ marks the pivot point between the public and private realms and hides a butler’s pantry, the staircase to the wine cellar, and sliding doors to zone the spaces.
At the start of the project our clients were not overly impressed with the attributes of their site and were not fond of the view to the strawberry farm. The design of the residence has changed our clients’ perception of their environs by carefully selecting and 'framing' vignettes so that the inhabitants are encouraged to pause, and appreciate the special characteristics of a landscape setting that has more 'depth' than just the strong graphic rows of grapevines.