Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Table, Wood, Countertop, Chair, BeamDiagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Sofa, Wood, Windows, Beam, ChairDiagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Facade, Garden, CourtyardDiagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - WindowsDiagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - More Images+ 12

Fitzroy, Australia
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Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Facade, Garden, Courtyard
© Peter Bennetts

Text description provided by the architects. This was a lucky site. An access lane along one boundary, the treed grounds of a school along another, ensured that the rear northern outlook, which lay diagonally across the site, would be preserved from any future redevelopment. In an inner urban setting, it is not always wise to rely on aspect when conceiving of a design. In this case it made sense to embrace it.

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Table, Countertop, Chair, Beam, Windows
© Peter Bennetts

A poorly constructed addition closed off the existing dwelling from this rear amenity. Even with this removed, it was clear that the remaining Victorian architecture - street oriented, with envelope and interiority tightly clasped together -was not well disposed to take advantage of the site’s good fortune. The design approach was to loosen these relationships, so that the qualities of the exterior could draw alongside those of the interior.

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Image 12 of 17
New Floor Plan

Seen in plan, the diagonal house’s singular gesture is a rhomboid volume, a kind of spatial easement that subdivides the site, creating courtyards on either side of the dining and living space. With its northern edge pulled upwards and its southern downwards, viewline and sunlight are drawn through the house on this diagonal axis, to the extent that afternoon winter sun extends all the way through the house, crossing the courtyard, to the edge of the existing master bedroom. This plan works equally well in summer, when cross ventilation from the southern courtyard to the north draws air across a pond, passively cooling the interior. 

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Sofa, Wood, Windows, Beam, Chair
© Peter Bennetts

This breeziness, both spatial and sensory, is experienced from the functional and personal spaces located at the periphery. The study, kitchen/pantry, bathroom and bedrooms are tightly composed -like extensions or fragments of the Victorian house plan.  In opposition to the dynamic space at its centre, the views from these rooms are aligned towards the more intimate spaces at the edges of the site.

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Image 15 of 17
Longitudinal Section

In this way, aspects of the existing dwelling are reinterpreted in the new and used to provide different kinds of space over a small area. This allows the substantial brief of a young family of 5 to be accommodated without a large footprint.

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Windows
© Peter Bennetts

Such shifts are also played out in materiality. The Blackbutt flooring of the existing house is extended to the edge of the kitchen, where it meets ironbark extending inwards from the courtyard deck. This is a critical moment, of existing and new, where high points are connected to low and the edges of the rhomboid are joined to the peripheral spaces. Lined in blackbutt it is also the primary structural frame, requiring close integration of design, structural engineering and the builder’s excellent carpentry skills.

Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica - Facade, Garden
© Peter Bennetts

From a cost and sustainability point of view, a smaller dwelling is always preferred to a large, and reuse preferred to new building. Through this addition, amenity and flexibility has been provided within an overall footprint of similar size to what we started with. It has done so by bringing spaces of the site and its climate to those of the interior. What we added was always there.

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Cite: "Diagonal House / Simon Whibley Architecture & Antarctica" 29 Jul 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/770940/diagonal-house-simon-whibley-architecture-and-antarctica> ISSN 0719-8884

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